Which is the real Great Satan, Khamenei or Trump?
How odd, that just when many Americans, have come to believe they have elected their own ‘Great Satan’ and have made the traditional Iranian epithet sound reasonable, Iranians themselves are thinking it might be a better description of their own ‘supreme leader’, Ali Khamenei.
With American sanctions about to bite and the value of the Iranian rial having fallen 80% since January, while food prices have doubled, it’s no surprise that Iranians are looking for someone to blame.
But what is revealing is who they are blaming this time.
Yes, they still blame the USA, but not with quite the same conviction as usual. Iran’s foreign policy adventures in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are increasingly seen as luxuries the country cannot afford while its own people struggle – and these are clearly home grown, not problems created by the USA.
Yes, they blame President Hassan Rouhani – after all, it is surely his administration that has overseen this collapse. But most know in their hearts that he is not the real problem. What is being revealed here is the core of a catastrophic deception that has been played out in Iran since 1979 – the deception that the ‘government’ is, in any meaningful way, ‘The Government.’
Just like in the UK, there is an elected leader (The Prime Minister/government) and an unelected one (The Queen/Royal family) and just like in the UK, we get a chance to get rid of the elected one every five years. However, there’s a big and important difference between the UK and Iran. In the UK it’s the elected government that has the executive power and runs the country, including the armed forces and police. The unelected monarchy doesn’t. If you asked people here, ‘who runs the country’ they generally would say ‘The Government’ not ‘the Queen’ (though some might wish it otherwise). In Iran, so long as you asked them privately and they felt confident that the police and security services were not listening in, many would say ‘The Guardian Council’ and ‘The Supreme Leader’, not ‘The President’. As the anarchists used to complain, ‘it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.’
Now Ayatollah Khamenei, aware that some poisoned arrows are flying his way, is trying to blame President Rouhani for ‘a huge mistake in management’ and failing to get a ‘good deal’ from the Americans. This would be rather like the UK Prime Minister (who has executive power) blaming the Queen (who does not) for failing to negotiate a good Brexit deal. It’s a shameful distortion and should be treated with contempt.
Actually, ‘Great Satan’ is not the right metaphor for either the USA or Iran – it absolves us, the people, of responsibility for what we have done – in the one case through election and in the other through popular revolution. In both cases our leaders are not metaphysical intrusions – they are the people we have chosen. If we don’t like them, it’s our own fault. The one that came through election can go through election; the one that came through revolution will probably have to go through revolution. A better metaphor would be Frankenstein’s monsters, because they are entirely creations of our own making.
Neither Donald Trump or Khomeini/then Khamenei hid their views from sight on their way off the operating table into the world. We listened, understood and still chose to bring them to life and now we complain that they are not what we intended. It is we who are the “Great Satans’, not them.
If you think that one day the fountain pen may yet be mightier than the sword and for all you need to know about everywhere, read The Dweller’s Guide To The Planet