For many, Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome death at the hands of Saudi government-sanctioned gangsters has become a good time to debate the morals of doing business with authoritarians and theocrats. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing any Islamic state shares our values — though, of course, Democrats would never put it so starkly.
Then again, most of the loudest advocates for withdrawing from the Saudi alliance were themselves prepared to pay off the theocracy of Iran for merely dropping their nuclear plans, ignoring decades of terror and murder aimed at Americans and others. So when it comes to the issue of human rights or national virtue in Middle East, the Iran boosters shouldn’t be taken seriously.
#SaudiArabia are rat killers who’ve used filthy oil money to buy silence & access in DC & around world, crypto Islamic-fascists-We’ve wrongly made Iran boogey man. He’s been living in #Riyadh whole time. Remember 9/11-Remember African embassies-Remember UssCole Remember Khashoggi
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) October 19, 2018
Here, for instance, is Geraldo Rivera, perhaps more transparently than most Iran advocates, laying out the choice.
Perhaps Rivera doesn’t know that Barack Obama’s Defense Department believed the Islamic Republic was likely responsible for the death of at least 500 American troops in Iraq — and the wounding of hundreds more. Those Americans might not have been opinion journalists at The Washington Post, but they faced a boogey men who armed and funded by the Iranian regime.
Perhaps he doesn’t know that in 2018, the State Department found that Iran was a leading state sponsor of terrorism with a “near-global reach,” sending operatives around the world, including to the United States. As reported in The New Yorker (and elsewhere,) Iran has sponsored “at least 30 terrorist attacks between 2011 and 2013, in places as far flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi.” We know this is true because we keep catching them here. Some of these boogey men were caught in a scheme to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi Ambassador at a restaurant near the White House.
Though acts of terrorism have fallen around the world — and, whether we like them or not, Saudis have helped in this regard — the U.S.’s Annual Country Reports on Terrorism, also singled out Iran as using “terrorism as a tool of its statecraft. It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.” We know this from that time some boogey men blew a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 innocent people.
Of course, Iranian treatment of journalists has been consistently appalling, as well. At least four have been murdered in Iran since 1997, probably more. Maybe they were hung next to gay men, adulteresses or dissidents that are regularly executed. Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian, was raped, tortured and murdered by Iranian officials in 2013. Hundreds more have been flogged and brutalized since the revolution by these boogey men.
Iran has been taking American hostages since 1979. The most infamous recent case was that of journalist Jason Rezaian, who was lucky to get out. Right now, though, Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, Karan Vafadari and Afarin Neyssari are all naturalized American citizens sitting in jail cells in Iran. Right now an American named Xiyue Wang — not a journalist but a PhD candidate and researcher at Princeton University — is serving a 10-year sentence.
Moreover, Iran has a hand in every terrorist act that Rivera points to as proof of Saudi guilt.
Though surely Saudis, themselves religious totalitarians, deserve blame for creating an environment that fosters Islamic radicalism (Obama couldn’t even get himself to utter the words much less do anything about it) none of the 9/11 hijackers — 15 of the 19 were born in the Kingdom — were sent to the United States by the Saudi government. Iran wasn’t officially tied to 9/11 either, but the 9/11 Commission Report did find that 8 to 10 of the hijackers had passed through Iran and “their travel was facilitated by Iranian border guards.” The report also found other ties between Iran and Al-Qaeda.
And since you bring it up, Geraldo, in 2011, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that bombing of those U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were the result of “direct assistance” from Iran and Sudan. Not the Saudis. Iran, the court found, “aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama Bin Laden, and al Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States by utilizing the sophisticated delivery mechanism of powerful suicide truck bombs.”
We shouldn’t forget those 17 American sailors who were murdered in the USS Cole bombing in 2000. In 2015, a U.S. federal judge found that Iran was complicit in that attack as well, stating that “Iran was directly involved in establishing Al-Qaeda’s Yemen network and supported training and logistics for Al-Qaeda in Gulf region” through their proxy Hezbollah. The Islamic Republic was ordered to pay $75 million to the families of the dead. It’s a shame Obama didn’t think to deduct the amount from the over billion in cash he sent on unmarked plane headed for Tehran.
Though it’s a long time ago, I also remember the Beirut Marine Barracks bombings, in which Iran had a hand in the murder of 241 U.S. troops (also, over 60 French peacekeepers and civilian workers.). Today Iran still sends Hezbollah cash, and advanced weapons that can turn rockets into precision missiles. It still funds the Assad regime in Syria, which is responsible for the gassing of thousands of innocent people, as well as an array of atrocities that cross every moral red line imaginable.
Right now, Iran and Saudi are fighting a war in Yemen. Yet, only one of those nations gets the brunt of criticism. Iran also still threatens and funds terrorism against Israel — our only ally in the Middle East (and let’s include Turkey for kicks) that doesn’t jail, or torture or execute dissenters. Yet, that is the only other ally Iran-boosters seem interested in criticizing.
So I do wonder if Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian pastor sentenced to death for his beliefs, sees Iran as a boogey man. I wonder if Salman Rushdie, or other blasphemers, think Iran is a boogey man. Or if those women and girls subjected to “domestic violence and early and forced marriage,” which is “widespread and committed with impunity,” think Iran is the boogey man.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are both openly Islamic theocracies. We can hold the former responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, and exert more genuine pressure to force it to embrace reforms, but in the end, the choice right now is whether we do business with a theocracy that helps alleviate terror or one that instigates and deploys it. Once the Iranian government is overthrown, maybe the calculus changes.