Iran’s delusions of grandeur a survival strategy

Iran’s delusions of grandeur a survival strategy

A statue of Nizami Ganjavi in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Supplied)

The renowned Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi wrote five massive works of epic poetry. The fourth of these, written in 1197 and named “Haft Peykar” (The Seven Beauties), was written in praise of the ruler of Maragha, Ala-al-Din Korpe Arslan. 

Although Ganjavi’s poetry was written in Farsi, many believe that he was of Azeri rather than Persian origin. Whatever his ethnicity, he lived in an atmosphere dominated by Persian culture. In his work, Ganjavi likens the world to a body, with Iran as its heart. In other words, he saw Iran as the center and axis of the world, as the heart is the essential organ that sustains all other parts of the body. He wrote in one of the verses of his poems: “The entire world is like a body in which Iran is the heart; there is no shame to draw this comparison; since Iran is the heart of the earth; surely, the heart is the best part of the body.”

In other works of Iranian literature, writers divided the world into seven galaxies, with six of these forming a circle surrounding the seventh central galaxy, around which they eternally orbit and which is equidistant from all of them. This pivotal galaxy is, of course, Iran. 

Readers may ask why we are recalling these centuries-old literary epics in an article related to contemporary politics. Those who have followed events in Iran since the 1979 revolution know that the Iranian regime always seeks recognition and wants to be the center of attention, as well as the primary focus of the world’s admiration. If we bypass the first years of the revolution, which were taken up with the Iran-Iraq War, along with the regime’s constant belittling of Iraq and the region, we find that the slogans first used by former President Mohammad Khatami concerning civilizational discourse have resounded across the world. Since 2002, the world has followed the issue of the regime’s nuclear program, which has been underway for 13 years to date. 

Now we find that Iran is in the limelight on the global stage due to its nuclear and missile programs as well as its targeting of oil tankers in the Gulf and two Saudi Aramco oil pumping stations, which were attacked by the Tehran-backed Houthi militia. This is in addition to the Iranian regime’s hostile behavior and constant threats to its neighboring countries, which are leading this volatile region toward possible military options to repel Tehran’s expansionist schemes. The regime’s leaders have always spoken about their vital sphere in a manner reminiscent of Nazi Germany, bragging that Iran’s influence and strategic depth extend from the Indian subcontinent to the Mediterranean. Thus, it seems that Iran seeks to justify its meddling in this sprawling geographical area. 

The main questions here are: Why does Iran’s regime insist on causing such chaos? And what is its problem with becoming a normal state living in harmony with its surroundings and coexisting peacefully with its neighbors? There are two main theories offering possible explanations that answer these questions.

The first theory argues that the regime in Tehran uses a diversionary strategy to distract the attention of the Iranian people away from demanding their cultural, political, religious and ethnic rights. It does this by invoking the bogeyman of a lurking enemy that seeks to target the country. Invoking this eternal enemy allows the regime to insist that it must be permanently on a war footing to confront external threats.

This strategy is linked to another, which is represented by exporting problems to other nations, known as the “flight-forward strategy.” The regime has relied on this since the victory of the 1979 revolution. Through its constant use of this strategy, the regime began to stir up tensions with the outside world, whether through meddling in the internal affairs of other nations or through attracting the attention of the world by aggressive policies that threaten global peace and security, hence ensuring that the international community rushes to resolve the issues in order to avert the danger. 

The second theory, meanwhile, argues that the Iranian regime seeks to gain and strengthen its legitimacy as well as to minimize the impact of the grave accusations leveled against it worldwide through making negotiations with global powers a focus in and of itself. 

The Iranian regime always seeks recognition and wants to be the center of attention.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

Allowing this to happen means that the thorny issue of the regime’s legitimacy goes unquestioned. This theory also involves sending a message to Iranians at home, with the regime seeking to undermine any domestic actions that could threaten or undermine its survival. 

In summary and regardless of which one of these two theories is more relevant to reality, it is clear that the Iranian regime works according to a strategy based on remaining in the limelight. It believes that Iran is the focal point and at the heart of this world. Thus, the regime seeks to achieve this objective, at least at the media level. This happens through creating chaos to distract attention and attempting to cause controversy within the international community, simply for Iran to dominate newspaper headlines, political talk shows and news bulletins.

Through the use of such subversive policies, the Iranian regime fulfills the aim of remaining far from any genuine threats, whether at home or abroad, despite the many problems plaguing it at all levels. 

In light of the pressures being put on Tehran at present, the question that arises is whether the world can succeed in dismantling this complicated strategy, breaking it down, and forcing the regime to deal with what it has evaded over the past four decades.

  • Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
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