Former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer has come on television to advocate the destabilization of Iran, on the grounds that it would improve the lives of Iranians and perhaps lead to the end of what he called its “theological regime.” Fleischer, who was for eight and a half years a chief propagandist for the catastrophic US war on and occupation of Iraq, appears to have learned nothing (and those who book him on national television seem to have learned less). He was taking advantage of the saber rattling against Tehran being conducted by the Trump administration.
Trump threatened Iran with what sounded like a nuclear holocaust in a hyper-ventilating, all-caps tweet on Sunday, after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the United States that if it attacked Iran it would get “the mother of all wars.” Rouhani has also been warning that Iran could blockade the Strait of Hormuz, through which 22 percent of the world’s petroleum and a significant percentage of its liquefied natural gas moves. Iran does not actually have that capability (and such a move would in any case cripple Iran as well), and Rouhani is making himself look foolish by going around quoting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from the 1991 Gulf War.
The old Bush-era neoconservatives, including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Fleischer himself, have eagerly revived all the rhetorical deceptions they once deployed with regard to ginning up the disastrous Iraq War, but are now aiming them at Iran. The hypocrisies inherent in Fleischer’s remarks are not just a personal failing but infect the inside-the-Beltway political elite in general. Fleischer minds that Iran is a “theological regime.” But no regime is more theological than that of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, and Fleischer does not advocate destabilizing it—indeed, he has repeatedly spoken positively about Riyadh.
Fleischer is a major figure in the US Israel lobbies, going to the mat for a country where the religious right has a lock on public policy, where the religious right has a lock on public policy, as evinced by the new law denying, on “theological” grounds, surrogacy rights to gays, which this week provoked major demonstrations in Tel Aviv. Fleischer’s Republican Party has been kneecapping Roe V. Wade for decades and seems on the cusp of overturning it to please the Christian right, a key GOP constituency.
It seems clear that, whatever it is that makes American conservatives (and a not inconsiderable number of liberals) hysterical about Iran, it is not that it has a “theological” government. Moreover, Iranian foreign policy is not typically made on a religious basis. Iran supports the secular, proto-Stalinist, socialist Baath Party in Syria. It is allied with oligarchic Russia and Communist China. It supports a multicultural coalition that includes Maronite Christians in Lebanon. It sides with Christian Armenia against Azerbaijan (which, now a largely secular country, has a Shiite heritage). A Shiite clerical regime itself, Tehran has its difficulties with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq.