by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
I wouldn’t want readers to think that I egotistically view Jamal Khashoggi’s anti-Iran stance as his most important flaw….
Part two in this 4-part series only focuses on Iran because they provide a distinct counterpart to “Khashoggi Thought”: By laying out the differences between these two we can see how Khashoggi relates to the Middle Eastern world; then in Part 3 we can see how Khashoggi relates to the larger Islamic World; and in Part 4 we can analyze Khashoggi’s intellectual relation to the West, China and the entire world. Hey – since 1979 hysterical anti-Iran warmongers have been a dime a dozen! We’re just expanding outward concentrically.
One of Khashoggi’s favourite journalistic topics was Iran, which everyone will agree is the Muslim country that has mostly successfully rebelled against the Western model and the West’s dictates. Those who know some of the details of the Iranian system will agree that Iran is also the Muslim country which has burst through the furthest into political modernity.
These are the very reasons why Khashoggi called Iran “our Great Satan”. He repeatedly wrote that the JCPOA agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program is a “war project” and not a peace project, in clear contradiction with the vast majority of global public opinion.
He viewed Iran as the biggest threat to his own happiness and to Saudi Arabia’s happiness, and so he fanatically wrote article after article to cobble together a war coalition. This article examines the question: What compelled Jamal Khashoggi to be such a horrific warmonger?
Khashoggi can rest in peace – he got some wars started, at least
From a 2016 column (fanatically) titled, You are either with us, or against us:
“Our neighboring friends say they do not want a sectarian conflict. It is too late; we have all been pushed against our will into this conflict by Iran, which might not be speaking in a sectarian way but is acting as such.”
The claim that Iran is “sectarian” is absolutely false and easily disproven: Palestinians are Sunni and not Shia. Need more? Fine: As far away as the leftist Polisario Front in the Western Sahara Iran is supporting Sunnis, even though monarchical Morocco cut ties for that reason (at least officially). This is an argument does not withstand the barest scrutiny.
I dispel such nonsense to show Khashoggi’s own, real view:
“Therefore, today’s confrontation is not between Sunnis and Shiites, but between Shiite fundamentalism (he is referring to Iran) and Sunni fundamentalism represented by ISIS.”
The only people making such a preposterously false equivalence between Iran and ISIS are located in Riyadh, Israel, Washington, New York and in mosques where the preachers have trained by radical Saudi Arabians. Would ISIS have a constitution, women in parliament, and high voter turnout? LOL, of course not – the two are absolutely not comparable. However, if you want to get a job with The Washington Post you had better write a ton of copy claiming that they are.
Khashoggi’s dishonest claim that he himself was not a sectarian is contradicted by the fact that – in clear contrast with Iran’s foreign policy – Khashoggi openly opposed every Shia movement in any Middle Eastern country: he supported the war in Syria 100%, hated Hezbollah as much as any Israeli, and only stopped openly supporting the war on Yemen after he moved to The Washington Post.
Lede sentence from a pre-“WaPo” 2016 article titled, Saudi constance in its Yemen policy:
Operation Decisive Storm will emerge victorious because its demands are simple, moral, and supported locally, regionally and internationally.”
Our first question is: who is this “Constance” he refers to and how did she get such influence in Saudi foreign policy on Yemen? I have heard of “constancy”, but apparently ole Saudi Connie was deluded into thinking that forcing the greatest famine in modern history on Yemen was “moral”.
Errors from Al-Arabiya’s editors aside, the reality is that Khashoggi viewed any demand by Shia for democracy as “Shiite fundamentalists”.
How many “reformers” or “dissidents” are warmongers at the same time? Check Part 1 for an explanation of what type of thinker in the Muslim world does and does not deserve those monikers.
Modern Iran, like all socialism, is a social experiment which was long-repressed
The problem with Khashoggi’s obsessive anti-Iranian warmongering (apart from all the obvious problems, of course) is that revolutions are not made by powers or individuals, but solely by ideas.
Like the results or not, I think any objective analysis will agree that the idea behind the Iranian Islamic Revolution was, most simply, “modern Muslim democracy”.
But to the average Westerner “modern Muslim democracy” is an extremist idea; to the average Western leftist or intellectual it is an impossible contradiction; to Arab monarchs it is a terrifying threat to their elite status; to the Muslim People, this is exactly what has been repressed by all of the above for two centuries (and then the Muslim People are accused of being intrinsically anti-democratic!).
But, after toppling the Shah, and unencumbered by a legacy of colonialism like in Algeria, and also not seeking to deny a Muslim electoral victory as Algeria did in the 1990s, Iran did implement Muslim democracy more than any major Muslim nation in history. What resulted from this Muslim democracy is what I often refer to as “Iranian Islamic Socialism”.
But this revolutionary idea was not at all unique to Iran in the Muslim world, and that is something which Khashoggi himself recognized and feared. From a 2016 column titled Iran’s Regional Project:
“The leaders of Yemen’s Houthis, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Dawa party and Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq party seek to implement their sectarian fundamentalist project in order to spread Iran’s influence beyond its borders. Those leaders consider Iran a cosmopolitan system rather than a state with defined boundaries. They have pledged unconditional allegiance, waging war and declaring peace on Tehran’s orders without taking into account the interests of their states. They do not consider Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria or Iraq as countries.”
Therein lies Khashoggi’s fundamental error: especially given that Iranian patriotism was the single-most important spark to their revolution (and not something openly internationalist, like socialism in 1917 Russia), Iran is not really a “cosmopolitan system”. However, “Muslim democracy” definitely is; “Islamic socialism” definitely is.
Houthis, Iraqis and Bahrainis are not seeking to create some sort of new “Shia Caliphate/superstate”, nor make Farsi their new official language, nor throw out their cultures for the modern Iranian one – they would certainly resist such efforts violently. Due to his 18th-century-based political beliefs – what I define as “Salafist Liberal Democracy” in the next part of this series – Khashoggi cannot grasp this.
Yet the truth couldn’t be more obvious: What those parties – all murderously repressed – truly seek is democratic representation within policy-making. Such policy-making would inevitably be, I predict, Islamic socialist, but they would certainly not be “policies-to-benefit-Iranians”.
That is why Baathist (Arab nationalist/supremacist, secular, socialist) turned tyrant Saddam Hussein banned and massacred the Dawa Party in 1979…which only pushed back their (inevitable) democratic victory until 2005. That is why Yemen is in the midst of the latest iteration of its civil war for democracy and against monarchy, and via a Houthi movement which is republican and which also includes Sunnis (contradicting the constant Western media description of them as “sectarian”). That is why Bahrain’s poor – dominated by Shia, who live under the discriminatory and Riyadh-allied monarchy – want at least one valuable commodity: the ability to vote their conscience so that modern, democratic policy-making can finally begin.
Furthermore, against the idea of Iranian cosmopolitanism is the fact that anti-Arab feeling in Iran can be disgustingly strong – they were the invaders, after all. Iranian patriots (but especially Iranian jingoists) would love to talk to you for 2,500 years about the 2,500 years of rather distinct (but not too distinct…) Persian culture. Iranians honor and adore Imam Zayn al-Abidin – the originator of the Islamic sect of Zaidism – but he took firmest root in Yemen. Is “cosmopolitan” Iran going to uproot Yemenites’ 11-century long love for Imam Zayn and force them to publicly prefer Imams Ali & Hussain, the ubiquitous religious figures of Iran? That idea is impossibly absurd and would only lead to war.
Modern Iranians are much like modern Chinese – not inclined to imperialism following much Western humiliation and repression; maybe in a century that changes (devolves, becomes reactionary, etc.) but it’s just not true in 2018. However, both are inclined to defend their neighbors, cultural kin and distant cousins when attacked, which is not at all “imperialism”.
Iran-obsessing is only to repress intellectual & democratic debate
Despite all these core-rooted differences Iran has with other “Shia nations”, Khashoggi concludes:
The crises in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq should be linked and dealt with as one Iranian project that threatens all our cultural and political components, and our vision for the future. This project poses a serious threat to our region, and should be seriously confronted with a unified project before it is too late.
For Khashoggi “Muslim democracy” has been transformed into “one Iranian project” – very flattering to Iranians, but a false exaggeration.
Iran’s “project” was to liberate themselves from Western meddling and to democratically discuss and create a new society. What they decided was to: end monarchy, reject 18th century-based liberal democracy, not attempt a phony bourgeois Muslim liberal democracy, and to instead create what is accurately termed “Iranian Islamic socialism”.
However, all of that absolutely does threaten the monarchism, elitism and power-hoarding “vision for the future” which Khashoggi supports!
Khashoggi wanted the Saudi Arabian power structure to remain fundamentally unchanged – he merely preferred a different prince than current Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Just ask his sons: “Jamal was never a dissident.”
Let’s define another key Khashoggi’s fear, which is the unique historical choice Muslims face in 2018: between monarchy and republican theocracy. It is a unique choice because – excepting a few islands in the Caribbean – it is only Europeans who still promotes monarchy, and they certainly appear to democratically reject theocracy.
Iran was not the first nation to prove that a monarchy is totally incompatible with socialism, but they were indeed the first to prove that in the Muslim world. That’s no small potatoes in a region full of kings….
More crucially, though, is this: Iran was the first to prove was that theocracy is not totally incompatible with socialism – this is Iran’s most radical contribution to modern history.
This is why Iran is such an electrifying, polarising example in the resolutely-religious Muslim World. It is also why those opposed to the political & economic democratic dictates of socialism, and those pushing capitalism, imperialism and monarchy – like Khashoggi – are trying so hard to destroy Iran.
What is certain is that Liberal Democracy is not compatible with socialism: Socialist Democracy is fundamentally different in structure, motivation and application, and the West will continue to totally oppose Socialist Democracy wherever it is found.
Khashoggi’s ‘cry of a Saudi prince’ in 2018: “I am not king….waahh waaahh!”
The reality is that Khashoggi himself admired and envied the Iranian Revolution. What did Khashoggi want to emulate? From his column, The Alienation of the Saudi Legacy:
“I consider it the second most important book to tackle the crisis of Saudi identity and alienation after Egyptian researcher and journalist Mohammed Jalal Kishk’s book “The Saudis and the Islamic Solution.”
This book was published more than 30 years ago, when the question of an Islamic solution emerged with the return of political Islam and the victory of its sectarian version in Iran. It is time to put this book back on school shelves, so the current generation learns and feels proud…” blah blah petty nationalism blah blah Saudis are the best blah blah.
Per Khashoggi, he wants an Islamic solution to be promoted and to be a “victory”- like in Iran – only he wants a Saudi version.
First, an aside: the problem is that a just society according to Kishk was staunchly, resolutely anti-leftist. Khashoggi, like seemingly all Westerners, completely misses the socialist aspects of the “victory of the sectarian version” in Iran. Iran’s solution was both Islamic and modern; the latter is proven by its rejection of antiquated monarchy and the implementation of democratic structures, and Islamic because many of its rules which were inspired by Islamic knowledge. (That Iran’s government is not based on “religion” but based on “religious knowledge” is literally the first piece of ignorance I sought to overturn in my recent 11-part series on modern Iran.)
Many Muslims will say today that Khashoggi’s proposed monarchist, anti-socialist, sectarian and jingoist solution is not at all Islamic, but let’s play along anyway:
One cannot be both “modern politically” and a “monarchist”. Whoever heard of a socialist king? Now that is an impossibility. The only place you would hear such fake leftism is from Europe, Canada or Australia. Khashoggi reveals this contradictory absurdity when he refers back to the second-most important book, written by Saudi Prince (shocker, eh?) Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman:
“The book comes as an outcry from a Saudi prince…” stop right there Jamal: the worker of 2018 cares not for the “outcry” of any prince!
Neo-imperialist Europe may disagree with that, but any empowered, educated worker knows that there can be no princes in 2018 – to maintain doing so (or to return to doing so, perish the thought!) is what is accurately called “reactionary” in 2018. For God’s sake, even a devilish, bourgeois banker in New York City or Paris has enough political modernity (republicanism: popular sovereignty, instead of the sovereignty of a monarch) to know that!
But I have not the power to stop Khashoggi, because he has all the powerful allies while Iranian Islamic Socialists and Muslim Democrats have only the lower classes. He continues:
“The book comes as an outcry from a Saudi prince calling for an awakening that revives what was inherited from our grandparents…” again I wrest control!
What I inherited from my two grandfathers appears limited to the shape of my hands and legs, the desire to respond to silly questions with silly answers, and the monetary fortune left over from a 95 year-old’s modest pension… after being divided with at least 10 other people. Contrarily, Khashoggi inherited more money than he could spend and the keys to the kingdom’s journalism! Thus, it is no wonder he espouses a reactionary, backwards-facing view…there is a reason most revolutions are started by the “barefooted”, as in Iran.
Instead of having a revolution to depose the anti-democratic, damned monarchy, Khashoggi – like all modern right-wingers from Europe to the US to Brazil and beyond – can only offer the dying light of the past as a beacon. It is mere nationalism – an ethos which was “modern” in 1848.
Contrarily, plumbing only the past for answers is the opposite of socialism, which demands that the People be empowered in their daily work to excitingly construct and maintain a new society where everyone can finally reach their full potential.
Khashoggi illustrates what Muslims have been fighting against ever since the Industrial Revolution proved to workers what their unified power could produce: Western-backed monarchists who fear the democratic judgment of their own people.
Nationalism produces racism but patriotism does not. No surprise Khashoggi pushed ‘Saudization’
Patriotism is what we are striving for, but Khashoggi reminds us that “patriotism” must necessarily be combined with something larger than just a “love for our land and our past”. Twenty-first century modernity simply must be combined with a multicultural ethos due to absolutely everyone’s recent history of immigration (which only excepts Japan, the Koreas, Tunisia (they were all trying to get into Ghadaffi’s Libya) and Yemen among major countries).
This why the West truly has no idea what patriotism truly is: they mistakenly think “patriotism” includes jingoism, racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
Iran is a “cosmopolitan” system only in the sense that it speaks this long-suppressed but still vibrant anti-sectarian, leftist language both within and beyond its borders. Khashoggi constantly distorted this reality and told his readers that all Shia are “tools of Iran”, and that they cannot be trusted as citizens across the Middle East. All Shia have apparently renounced their nationalities and have no heart at all for their surroundings nor those in them…but this is all untrue.
Untrue, but normal to Western ears: this is undoubtedly exactly what is said in the centre and left across the West – “Shia” must simply be replaced with “Mexicans” or “Muslims” or “Roma” as needed.
This is scapegoating and racism, and verboten in socialism; China, Iran and Cuba have NONE of these “identity” problems. “Our country is losing its identity” is only a pathetic problem for those nations not inspired by socialism; socialist nations are making a new identity, and it is patriotic (inclusive of all within its borders). This short section is, sadly, necessary for many Western readers who are not true patriots but who falsely they think they are.
It is unsurprising that Khashoggi supported the monarchy’s “Saudization” policies to the hilt – all their migrant workers were only oil money-bloodsuckers, not people who helped build modern Saudi Arabia. The recent expulsion of 700,000 Yemeni migrants, along with other deported nationalities, is something many in the West would love to achieve.
A “reformer”, despite being anti-Iran, anti-Shia, anti-migrant….
2018 choices for the Middle East: democracy & religion or monarchy
Of course the West loves Khashoggi – just like they do, he hated Iran and sough to create a Sunni-Shia divide which has no precedent in Islamic history.
A Khashoggi could never exist in Iran – that is the glory of their popular revolution. Promote anti-democratic monarchy in Iran? That’s only among the lunatic exiles. Promote aggressive and obviously-imperialist war in Iran? War is only for self-defense against invaders, which is ordered in the Koran – Muslims do not turn the other cheek.
That Khashoggi is celebrated in the West is to their great shame, and I’m sure many Westerners are ashamed of that. These honest people instinctively know that Khashoggi is no “refomer”, but hopefully this series reminds us exactly why.
The Saudi People also know Khashoggi is no reformer. I recently covered a pro-Khashoggi demonstration in front of the Saudi embassy in Paris – there were twice as many journalists there than Saudis. Saudis know this guy was no hero – he was part of the system of Saudi oppression.
But I am well-aware that Westerners do not really care about Khashoggi – it’s just an interesting tabloid story.
Those who care about Khashoggi are the leaders of the Mainstream Media, Western politicians, and Western CEOs – sadly, this is who controls things in Western liberal democracy’s “rule of law”. They care about Khashoggi because he represented the possibility of bourgeois revolution within the Muslim monarchical world, which would create the opportunity for international high finance to legally wrest control of the Saudi Arabia’s oil from the Saudis – what else would result from installing bourgeois liberal democracy in Saudi Arabia?
Khashoggi has passed, and the push to prevent democracy for Muslim people – by protecting monarchs and their intellectual toadies – will continue. However, socialism and democracy cannot be denied in the Muslim world forever.
Please note that this entire Part 2 only discussed political ideas which the West can relate to – liberal democracy, republicanism, socialism, true patriotism, etc. Part 3 discusses a political concept which most Westerners cannot discuss intelligently – Salafism. It also discusses the very-unintelligent ideology Khashoggi promoted: what I term “Liberal Democratic Salafism”.
In 2018 Salafism is a politically-reactionary concept, and it is absolutely opposed in Iran for that reason, but it is so prevalent in the Muslim world and in Muslim history that it must be properly understood. Westerners must understand it because they have it too.
This is the 1st article in a 4-part series which examines Jamal Khashoggi’s ideology and how it relates to the Islamic World, Westernization and Socialism. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
Khashoggi Part 2: A ‘reformer’…who was also a hysterical anti-Iran/Shia warmonger?
Khashoggi Part 3: ‘Liberal Democratic Salafism’ is a sham, ‘Islamic Socialism’ isn’t
Khashoggi Part 4: fake-leftism identical in Saudi Arabian or Western form
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.