The Corner

National Security & Defense

How Far Will Iran Go in Its Pursuit of Conquest and Empire?

The Iranian regime has a rational pursuit of its interests. At the core of those interests, however, is a vision of conquest and empire. The clerics ruling Tehran since 1979 have put an end to Shiite quietism, a doctrine whereby the individual was asked to make his peace with God, and that was all. Ayatollahs who thought on those lines have been killed, imprisoned, or neutralized. Those who have commandeered their place exploit faith in order to acquire power. With their turbans and black robes, they may look like divines but they are acting exactly like the tyrants who have politicized and militarized one Muslim country after another. Right now, they are colonizing Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and positioning themselves far afield in Sudan and even Latin America. The destruction of Israel is not negotiable, so they continually threaten, and the regime further promises to drive the United States out of the Middle East altogether.

This politicized and militarized Iran depends on the accumulation of power. The United States is in a position to thwart it, and therefore the regime has to be constantly testing American intentions and capacities. Iran is not a power equivalent to Hitler’s Germany, but totalitarian dictatorships treat democracies in similar ways. In 1935, a British nurse seconded to a hospital in Germany was badly beaten up in public by uniformed storm-troopers. The British consul warned the government that this was a deliberate test of British resolution. The Anglo-German Naval Treaty was in discussion, and Hitler wanted to find out how far he dared go in re-arming his fleet, that is to say preparing for war.

#related#Jason Rezaion, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini are American citizens arbitrarily imprisoned in Iranian jails. As in the case of that British nurse, the failure of the United States to defend its citizens is interpreted as weakness, willingness to submit in what is the initial stage of a much wider conquest. The agreement just reached at Lausanne is today’s version of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, and having got this far, the Iranians can calculate how much further to go, for instance building intercontinental ballistic missiles and anti-aircraft defenses and cheating with impunity in their nuclear development. Iran is in the hands of a regime vicious with its own people and duplicitous and war-mongering with other countries. Negotiation with it is already a tribute to self-deception.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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