THE PERSIAN RATCHET
The war between Persia and the West is very ancient, well over a thousand years older than the war between Islam and Christianity.
Western Civilization originated in a strip of land 90 miles long and 30 miles wide along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor (Turkey today) known as Ionia. The Greeks who settled there in the 9th and 8th centuries BC colonized such cities as Ephesus and Miletus, where the first philosophers in history (like Thales, 635-543 BC) offered natural explanations of the world rather than superstition and myth.
The founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great (576-529 BC), incorporated Ionia within his rule but gave it autonomy. This freedom vanished under the tyranny of Darius I (550-486 BC), Ionia revolted in 502, Darius crushed the revolt, then invaded and attempted to conquer all of Greece.
On September 21, 490 BC, on the beach at Marathon, under the command of the Athenian general Miltiades, the Greeks destroyed Darius’ army, with 6,400 Persians killed versus 192 Greek hoplites.
Ten years later Darius’ son Xerxes (519-465 BC) was back for revenge. The largest army the world had ever seen (perhaps one million or more soldiers) swept through the Greek peninsula, overwhelmed the Spartans at Thermopylae, and burned Athens to the ground. Then the Athenian general Themistocles lured Xerxes’ gigantic navy into the Bay of Salamis, and on September 28, 480 BC, the quick little Greek triremes cut the Persians to ribbons.
146 years later the Greeks enacted their revenge. In 334 BC with a small army of 40,000, Alexander the Great invaded Persia and conquered it entire, from the Nile to the Indus, burning the royal palace of Persepolis in recompense for the destruction of Athen’s Acropolis so many years before.
After a hundred years of Greek rule, a Persian tribe called Parthians reestablished the Persian Empire. The conflict with the West resumed with the Romans, who fought the Parthians for 300 years and finally wiped them out in 198 (all dates now AD).
A third Persian Empire was built by folks called Sassanids, and the war with Rome was back on. In 259, King Sharpur I captured Roman Emperor Valerian, and after killing or enslaving 70,000 Roman soldiers, flayed Valerian alive and kept his skin as a trophy.
Sassanid wars with Rome and Constantinople continued for 350 years, culminating in the Persian army of Khosrau II destroying Jerusalem in May, 614, slaughtering 90,000 Christians in cold blood and demolishing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
This prompted Emperor Heraclius in Constantinople to invade Persia in 621, wiping out Khosrau’s army at the Battle of Nineveh in December 627, and terminating the Sassanids. Unfortunately for mankind, the resultant anarchy made it easy for wild tribes to pour out of Arabia and seize Jerusalem, the whole Middle East, and Persia in the name of Islam 20 years later.
Islamicized Persia did not interact with the West much for another 12 centuries. In 1797 a tribe called the Qajars took over Persia. Their first Shah, Fath Ali (1771-1834), went to war with Czar Alexander I of Russia and lost very badly. In desperation, Fath Ali turned to England for protection.
The Brits helped him hold off the Russkies but didn’t take much interest until oil was discovered in 1908, whereupon they created the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now British Petroleum) to siphon off the oil and manipulate the Qajars.
After World War I, the Brits decided the current occupant of the Peacock Throne, Ahmad Shah, was impossibly incompetent, and in February 1921 ended Qajar rule and installed a peasant officer in the Persian Cossacks Brigade, Reza Khan Merpanj (1877-1944) in his place.
Reza Khan declared himself Shah in 1925, changed his name to Pahlavi after an ancient Persian language, and to curry favor with the new Nazi regime in Germany, in 1935 without warning or explanation, decreed that Persia would henceforth be known as Iran, meaning Land of Aryans.
Hitler was quite pleased that a country would rename itself as the original homeland of his Aryan Master Race, so an alliance was formed, resulting in a joint British-Russian invasion of Tehran that kicked out Reza and installed his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980) as the new shah in 1941.
The 22 year-old Shah turned to America for support against the Russian Soviet Union and endlessly perfidious Albion, which he received until he was sold straight down the river by Jimmy Carter, who allowed the Islamofascist revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow him in January, 1979.
We could call the ebb and flow of Persia vs. the West for two and a half millennia the Persian Ratchet, as over the centuries it ratchets up and down.
This prelude should put in perspective that the ancient fight between Persia and the West has now ratcheted up once again, this time against us, with America demonized as the Great Satan. Once again, it is a duel to the death – for that it is what the Mullahs who run Iran have decided it must be, and so it shall be.
The Mullahs are ratcheting it up at an ever faster pace recently, and finally George Bush last week decided to respond in kind. He publicly announced on August 12 he would consider a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – “All options are on the table” – and gave the green light for a major Time Magazine story Inside Iran’s Secret War For Iraq (August 22 issue, on newsstands Monday August 15).
“Green light” means that GW authorized the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies to provide Time with a massive amount of intel. It was no coincidence that Bush made his “all options” threat on the eve of the story’s publication – any more than it was a coincidence that stories on Bush’s threat and one entitled Unrest in Iran’s Kurdish Region Has Left 17 Dead appeared on the same day (August 13) in the New York Times.
(Yes, Virginia, Time Magazine and the New York Times are capable of mutual backscratching with the Bush White House.)
Just as Time says, Tehran is waging a war to split Iraq apart and create a Greater Iran Empire by incorporating Shia Iraq. What the story doesn’t discuss is how suicidally stupid is such an attempt.
Iraq breaking apart will inevitably lead to Iran breaking apart. This is because less than half the people in Iran are Iranian – that is, ethnic Persian.
Note the New York Times story above is about Kurds in Iran – not Iraq. The Kurds are a separate ethnic identity, neither Arab nor Persian nor Turk. There are more than five million Kurds in Iraq (20% of the total population of 26 million) – but there are more than six million Kurds right across the border in Iran (9% of 67 million).
The riots and unrest that the NYT reports have been going on for weeks now confirm that, if Iraqi Kurdistan splits from Iraq, Iranian Kurdistan will very violently split off from Iran and join it. An organization has been formed to do just that: The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.
We all know that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan terrifies the Turks, because all of southwest Turkey adjoining Iraq and Iran is Kurdish (14 million or 20% of 70 million), so Turkey would be dismembered. It should terrify the Mullahs in Tehran as well, for it would be only the start of the break-up of Iran.
To Iran’s north along the Caspian Sea is the former Soviet colony and now independent Republic of Azerbaijan. The folks who live here are Azeris, a Turkic people converted to Shia Islam by the Persians and stayed that way even after Czar Alexander I (remember him?) kicked the Persians out of the northern third of Azeri territory.
That northern third is Azerbaijan, with a population of eight million. The southern two-thirds is northwest Iran, inhabited by three times as many Azeris – over 24 million or 36% of the total population of Iran. They hate the Persians as much as the Kurds do, and have now organized a secessionist movement – The South Azerbaijan Liberation Movement (SALM) – to break off northwest Iran to create a Greater Azerbaijan.
Then there are the two million Baluchis in southeast Iran who hate the tyranny of Persian Tehran and want to join Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan, and the three million Turkmen who would like the Iran-Turkmenistan border shifted south to encompass them.
Now let’s add to all these enmities the biggest of all: Shia Arabs (they’re in Iraq) vs. Shia Persians (they’re in Iran). Persians and Arabs hate each other whether Sunni or Shia. Shia Islam began in Iraq, with Karbala and Najaf the most revered pilgrimage sites.
The Persian Shias’ attempt to replace them as the Shia holy cities with their city of Qom is despised by Iraqi Shias. There is no way Tehran is going to successfully colonize Shia Iraq.
So if the Mullahs are crazy enough to crank up the Persian Ratchet by going after Shia Iraq, George Bush may be happy to crank it all the way until Iran shatters. As he does so, his message to the Persian people will be whispered into their ears:
“The only way to stop Iran torn asunder is to conduct a democratic revolution and get rid of the Mullah Tyranny before it is too late.”