Ayatollah Khamenei and the Unhinged Mind of a Religious Zealot

Ayatollah Khamenei and the Unhinged Mind of a Religious Zealot

Iran’s Supreme Leader calls for a “final solution” to Israel and the “liberation of Palestine.”

Ari Lieberman

This past Friday, Israelis of all backgrounds and political persuasions celebrated Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel’s liberation of the eastern part of the city during the Six Day War of 1967. While Israelis were celebrating and reflecting on their admirable achievements, it was an entirely different affair in the Islamic Republic of Iran where Iranian authorities organized and orchestrated anti-Israel demonstrations in commemoration of Quds Day. The hateful rallies came with all the expected banalities including the requisite burning of Israeli and American flags and effigies.

The demonstrations were accompanied by the usual over-the-top rhetoric by Iran’s so-called Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who likened Zionism to a “virus,” and Israel to a “cancerous tumor,” that must be destroyed and whose destruction is imminent. In a twitter rant, the mercurial supreme mullah leader called for a “final solution” to Israel’s existence, invoking Nazi-like genocidal language and promised that “Palestine [would] be free.”

This sort of bombast is to be expected from Iran’s virulently anti-Semitic leadership. This isn’t the first time that Khamenei referred to Israel as a “cancerous tumor,” and the employment of Nazi-like verbiage is unsurprising given that the mullah leadership frequently indulges overt Holocaust denial and sponsors Holocaust denial exhibits.

Khamenei also criticized Arab countries for warming to Israel and forging ties with the Jewish state noting that in so doing, “they forgot their human, Islamic and political responsibilities and their Arab pride.” The Persian Shia leader, who for years has wreaked havoc and fomented chaos in the Arab Sunni world, is talking about Arab pride. Now that’s rich.

What is further both interesting and ironic is the Supreme Leader’s perplexing confidence in Israel’s alleged weakness and imminent demise. The contrast between Israel and Iran in terms of strength and stability could not be starker.

Israel is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a testament to its commitment to democracy and a free market economy. Its economy is strong and vibrant. Unemployment is low, inflation is low and its currency is rock-solid stable. Israel is recognized world-wide as a technology superpower, and no serious international technology company would consider doing business without maintaining an R& D presence in Israel. In terms of military prowess, Israel has convincingly defeated its enemies in every war it has had, beginning with the 1948 War of Independence through Operation Protective Edge, and routinely ranks among the world’s most powerful nations.

In sum, in every metric gauging a nation’s strength and stability, Israel ranks high. Iran by contrast, is plagued with economic, military and political malaise. Iran is recognized as a pariah state, a rogue nation shunned by most of the civilized world. Its commercial airlines and maritime fleets are barred from most of the world’s airports and seaports. Iran has been disconnected from the SWIFT system preventing its banks from engaging in international banking transactions, and crucially, Iran has a limited market for its oil, which is its chief export.

Iran’s economy is in shambles. Its currency, the rial, is virtually worthless. On the black market, one dollar fetches 160,000 rials. Unemployment hovers at about 12 percent, and that figure represents pre-COVID-19 levels! And speaking of COVID-19, while Israel has largely defeated the Wuhan virus and is opening up, the killer pathogen continues to ravage the Islamic Republic, with shockingly high death and infection rates.

Militarily, Iran is under extreme distress. In January, its air defense units shot down a Ukrainian commercial Boeing 737-800 killing all 176 passengers (most of which were Iranian) and crew members. The downing demonstrated lack of discipline, inadequate training and poor command and control. Embarrassed by the fiasco, Iranian authorities tried in vain to conceal the debacle, further damaging Iran’s already tarnished reputation on the world stage.

Then on May 11, in what has been described as a friendly fire incident, an Iranian missile boat obliterated another Iranian auxiliary ship with a C-802 ship-to-ship missile. The Iranians initially admitted to the loss of one sailor but perhaps learning from their experience in January, revised their casualty count, acknowledging the loss of 19 sailors and the wounding of 15 others. Other sources placed the number of dead at 40.

In Syria, Iranian forces, subjected to a relentless pressure campaign by the Israeli military, are reportedly evacuating some bases and retreating. Moreover, Iran has still not recovered from the loss of its Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and many of his top lieutenants in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in early January.

On May 9, Iran suffered another military reversal when an Israeli cyberattack on the Shahid Rajaee port facility in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Abbas, temporarily disabled the port’s computer systems that regulate traffic flow and logistics, causing a complete shutdown of the facility. The attack was in retaliation for a failed Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water facilities.

On every front, economic, political and military, Iran is reeling, making a mockery of Khamenei’s malign Quds Day rhetoric. Khamenei’s bombast not only exposes his virulent anti-Semitism, it also reveals the unbalanced mind of a religious zealot steeped in a perpetual, make-believe fantasy loop.

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Photo credit: Thierry Ehrmann