America and the good psychopaths [Excerpts]
In his speech Tuesday before the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to get the Americans to stop their collective swooning at the sight of an Iranian president who smiled in their general direction.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the premier warned, "I wish I could believe [President Hassan] Rouhani, but I don't because facts are stubborn things. And the facts are that Iran's savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani's soothing rhetoric." He might have saved his breath. The Americans weren't interested.
As a curtain raiser for Rouhani's visit, veteran New York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins wrote a long profile of Iran's real strong man for The New Yorker. Qassem Suleimani is the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is the most powerful organ of the Iranian regime, and Suleimani is Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's closest confidante and advisor. Rouhani doesn't hold a candle to Suleimani.
Filkin's profile is detailed, but deeply deceptive. The clear sense he wishes to impart on his readers is that Suleimani is a storied war veteran and a pragmatist. He is an Iranian patriot who cares about his soldiers. He's been willing to cut deals with the Americans in the past when he believed it served Iran's interests. And given Suleimani's record, it is reasonable to assume that Rouhani — who is far more moderate than he -- is in a position to make a deal and will make one.
The problem with Filkin's portrayal of Suleimani as a pragmatist, and a commander who cares about the lives of his soldiers — and so, presumably cares about the lives of Iranians — is that it is belied by the stories Filkins reported in the article.
Filkins notes that it was the Basij that crushed the anti-Islamist Green revolution in Iran in 2009. But for a man whose formative experience was serving as a Revolutionary Guards commander in the Iran-Iraq War, Suleimani's view of the Basij as a war fighting unit owes to what it did in its glory days, in that war, not on the streets of Tehran n 2009.
As Matthias Kuntzel reported in 2006, the Basij was formed by the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq War to serve as cannon fodder. Basij units were made up of boys as young as 12. They were given light doses of military training and heavy doses of indoctrination in which they were brainwashed to reject life and martyr themselves for the revolution.
As these children were being recruited from Iran's poorest villages, Ayatollah Khomeini purchased a half million small plastic keys from Taiwan. They were given to the boys before they were sent to battle and told that they were the keys to paradise. The children were then sent into minefields to die and deployed as human waves in frontal assaults against superior Iraqi forces.
By the end of the war some 100,000 of these young boys became the child sacrifices of the regime.
Filkins did not invent his romanticized version of what makes Suleimani tick. It is a view that has been cultivated for years by senior US officials.