Tehran Times – Richard Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, says Iran as an Islamic system is the only country that is “genuinely” fighting terrorist groups such as Daesh and state terrorism exercised by Israel and the United States.
“If the facts are examined, we in the West would understand that it is the genuinely Islamic government of Iran that fights against terrorism whether Islamically oriented, as with Daesh and Taliban, or state terrorism as with Israel or the United States,” Falk, currently a professor of international law at Princeton University, tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
The first part of the interview with Professor Falk was published on June 21. The core of the interview is about Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s letters to the youth in the West on January 21, 2015 and November 29, 2015. The letters followed the Charlie Hebdo shooting and terrorist attacks in France in January and November of the same year.
Following is the text of interview:
Q: Discrimination or hatred toward non-Christians is ripe among certain groups of society and politicians in the West. This feeling of hatred, as mentioned in the Leader’s letter, dated January 2015, is mostly directed against Islam. Why certain groups or politicians try to demonize Islam and present a distorted image of Islam?
A: Explaining the focus on Islam by the West in the contemporary period is not so difficult. Several factors can be mentioned. First, the legitimation in the West of Israel was accompanied by the demonization of Arabs as a race, Palestinians as a nation, and Islam as a religion. Secondly, the revolution in Iran was seen as a major geopolitical defeat for the West due to the collapse of the most significant pro-Western government in the region, and posed a threat of further anti-Western political developments, especially in Arab countries, but elsewhere as well. Thirdly, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the U.S. needed to find a new enemy to justify its outsized military budget if there was no longer a Soviet adversary. Fourthly, the Western dependence on the oil reserves of the region created strong strategic interests in finding ways to maintain hegemony in the post-colonial era. Fifthly, the resistance efforts of Palestinians and later emergence of extremist groups in Islamic countries culminated in the 9/11 attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and produced an orchestrated propaganda backlash that attributed terrorism to Islam rather than to extremism and the effects of prior Western interventions. The so-called ‘war on terror’ was carried on exclusively within Islamic countries, including Iraq after the attack and occupation of 2003 actually gave rise to ISIS. In other words, there are direct links between Western intervention, alliances with indigenous terrorist groups, and political extremism in some Muslim countries, which can change their agenda to function as national resistance against Western intervention as was the case in Iraq.
Q: In his second letter to the youth in the West on Nov. 29, 2015, that also followed terrorist attacks in France, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “You (the youth in Western countries) are the ones that have to uncover the apparent layers of your own society and untie and disentangle the knots and resentments”. Ayatollah Khamenei made such a suggestion in reference to the youth who have been born in Europe but have become dangerously radicalized and joined groups such as Daesh due to inequality, prejudice, discrimination, etc. How do you analyze this point?
A: It would seem that this second letter was written several months later to reinforce the message of the earlier letter to the effect that it was up to the youth in the West to address the twin challenges of terrorism and Islamophobia, and to grasp the deep roots of terrorism in the behavior of Western governments accused of ‘state terrorism.’ Ayatollah Khamenei is also asking youth to look into the layers of history in their Western countries, including the legacies of colonialism and slavery, to uncover the intensity of alienation that drives Islamic youth born in Europe to have become ‘dangerously radicalized’ to such an extent as to seek solutions via extremist violence of the sort practices by groups such as Daesh. In effect, it is domestic injustices in their own societies that prompts this sense of desperation by victimized outsiders who make their homes in these Western settings without being accepted by the majority national population. The experience of such alienated non-indigenous youth that makes terrorism appear to be the only way for them to fight back. I read the letter as suggesting that there are better ways to address these issues by removing the persistence of injustice and discrimination, and this require help of the mainstream youth of these European societies to arise against the practices, policies, and belief of their own parents who are presiding over the governance of these European societies.
In effect, Ayatollah Khamenei is implying that it is the alienated Islamic youth in these countries that are drawn to terrorist solutions and, if the facts are examined, we in the West would understand that it is the genuinely Islamic government of Iran that fights against terrorism whether Islamically oriented, as with Daesh and Taliban, or state terrorism as with Israel or the United States. From this perspective, Iran is the victim of terrorism, not as Western propaganda alleges, the sponsor and perpetrator of terrorism.
Q: In the November 2015 letter, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said, “Today, there are very few people who are uninformed about the role of the United States of America in creating, nurturing and arming al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their inauspicious successors.” Please give your comments on this.
A: This is, of course, a controversial assertion, yet sadly it contains elements of illuminating truths. There is no doubt that in the course of mobilizing opposition to Soviet influence and intervention in Afghanistan the U.S. lent decisive material support to groups that later were organized under the banners of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. As well, later in Iraq the U.S. imposed an occupation regime after its attack in 2003 that gave birth to Daesh. In other words, the U.S. has a serious responsibility for supporting the rise of the very Islamic extremist groups that it alleges are guilty of becoming terrorist actors because of their jihadist orientations. The reality is that Iran, despite its avowed Islamic structure of governance, has acted consistently in opposition to such terrorist organization regardless of their claim of representing Islam as a religion. In effect, Ayatollah Khamenei is calling upon the Western youth not only to grasp the true nature of Islamic religious faith but also to be aware that terrorism comes in many shapes and derives from governments as well as extremist groups, indicting specifically the U.S. Government.
U.S. hostility toward Islam arose for political reasons, especially its unconditional support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinian people and in relation to Iran after the revolutionary movement in 1978-79 that overthrew the pro-Western government of the Shah. To this day the West has no problem having special relationships with Saudi Arabia despite its endorsement and practice of terrorist tactics. The whole alignment of the West in the Middle East is based on geopolitical opportunism and is unrelated to humane or anti-terrorist principles. I believe Ayatollah Khamenei wants the youth of the West to understand this and act upon it to create the basis for inter-civilizational understanding. A better future depends on looking inward at the legacies of abuse in relation to non-Western peoples and outward at the present manifestation of such deformed behavior. On the basis, then, of seeking rectification of past abuses a brighter future is possible. In this regard, the current youth-led protests in the United States and the West seem responsive to this challenge, and the positive connection being drawn at protest events between Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian struggle is a clear recognition of solidarity against racism in all its forms, whether internal and historical or external and contemporary. And it is the refusal to acknowledge such connections that informs us that if we want to end injustice we need to do more than replace one old leader by another, but find leadership that is ready to change the system.