The Corner

Politics & Policy

Iran’s View of Power Is Fundamentally Different from That of the West

In the Muslim experience of governance, power has no moral dimension; it is simply the means whereby the strong establish supremacy over the weak. He who is able to use power to gain his ends displays exceptional talents denied to ordinary people — a superiority that brings honor to him and shame to those he has trampled on.

The regime in Tehran regularly demonstrates the instrumentality of power and the claim of honor that accompanies its success. There aren’t any real clashes of national interest, let alone existentialist threats, between the United States and Iran. It’s almost accidental that the relationship of the two countries has become an unrelenting power struggle. In the classic Muslim mode, Iran attacks American allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel and leads the world in executing anyone and everyone not afraid to argue that power does have a moral dimension.

The recent nuclear deal, the agreement to lift sanctions, the campaigns against American allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel, provide evidence that power is bringing victory within reach of the Iranian ayatollahs. The capture of ten American naval personnel was a small incident in itself, but the Iranians played it perfectly. Television showed these men with their hands above their heads in the surrender position, their shoes off, squatting to feed more like animals than human beings, their weapons playthings. Exposed as defeated creatures of no consequence, they were peremptorily released.

Unbelievably, Secretary of State John Kerry then made a speech thanking the Iranians for this humiliation of the United States, and calling it the product of diplomacy. In Tehran they must be guffawing that a high American official doesn’t begin to understand what power is about. The only person they need pay attention to is General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani chief of staff who does understand what power is about and declared that in the event of an Iranian attack on his ally and financial backer Saudi Arabia, Iran would be wiped off the map.

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

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