I’m writing this commentary in French, the most sublime language, from my Parisian penthouse where I’ve been ruminating for almost forty years. I assure you I remain a most formidable leader and lover, and am primed to educate you about what is happening to Iran. Don’t you wish I, instead of radical and incompetent theocrats, still led the great Persian kingdom? I’m not blaming the United States for my ouster nor am I ungrateful for decades of financial, political, and military backing. I simply recall what you surely know. I, the Shah of Iran, was and will always be your friend despite your betrayal.
“The satanic Americans didn’t betray you,” says a most unwelcome intruder, my neighbor the Ayatollah Khomeini. “They betrayed the Islamic people of Iran by installing and protecting a heathen and spendthrift dedicated only to eternal power.”
I put my pen down and say, “My moves to maintain domestic tranquility were infinitely less severe than yours. I was civilized. In fact, I gave women the right to vote.”
“Yes, and for that alone you should’ve been flogged.”
“Perhaps I should be thankful you’re here, polishing my image and besmirching yours. I sought not to conquer, unlike your successors who’re bloodying the Middle East and squandering our treasure while financing Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Houthis in Yemen, hosting Al Qaeda, and terrorizing the world.”
“The Iranian people have already rendered their judgment of you,” says Khomeini. “Let us examine contemporary matters, specifically the latest American outrage, a list of degradations pronounced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”
I pick up my Pompeo paper and use it to point to Khomeini’s copy in his hand. “Very well.”
“Pompeo accused us of marching ‘across the Middle East,’ during the nuclear deal they violated, and nourishing ourselves with ‘blood money… wealth created by the West.’ I think Mr. Pompeo is confused and in fact thinking about white men rampaging across the North American continent and enriching themselves while they abused their slaves and slaughtered Indians. He also seems unaware the money comes from oil that’s ours and foreign payments, that should’ve gone directly to us, have often been hijacked and banked by the West. And why would Americans object to our establishing a ‘corridor’ from Afghanistan to the shores of the Mediterranean? Our enemy has a corridor from sea to shining sea.”
“That’s in their country,” I say.
“Taken by force.”
“The way things are usually taken.”
“The Yankees and their European lackeys also have a corridor from the Atlantic to the Baltic Sea.”
“Shall we examine the Americans’ twelve points?” I ask.
“Pompeo first threatens to apply ‘unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime,’ and support our enemies in the Middle East, and ‘advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people’ to force us to ‘improve how it treats its citizens.’ It’s unfortunate, isn’t it, my dear Shah, that the United States didn’t compel you to improve your treatment of Iranians?”
“Under my enlightened leadership Iran was but ten or twenty years from living as well as Europeans and Americans. That’s hardly the case in your sanctions-strangled and medieval state.”
“Point one,” says Khomeini. “We ‘must declare to the International Atomic Energy Agency a full account’ of our nuclear weapons program and ‘permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.’”
“In perpetuity’s a long time,” I say. “I’d ignore the future requirement and give an incomplete accounting of our history in regard to nuclear weapons.”
The Ayatollah Khomeini almost smiles, and that frightens me.
“Second, the Americans – I assume Trump’s too dense to have written this – demand ‘Iran must stop enrichment’ and close our ‘heavy water reactor.’ We’d already done the latter, as part of the abrogated nuclear deal, but we shall certainly continue to enrich at peaceful levels. That’s our sovereign right, especially as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
I don’t respond.
“Point three,” says Khomeini, “I assume they’re joking: ‘Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.’ We’ll do that when the Americans allow us to inspect their nuclear installations.”
“Have you something to conceal?” I ask.
“Has Israel something to conceal? More than a hundred nuclear weapons, perhaps.”
“Israel has proven, at least at the nuclear level, that it won’t strike unless existentially threatened, and that hasn’t happened.”
“Before it does, we must destroy the Zionist pseudo state.”
“That attitude’s inappropriate and quite dangerous for any Iranian leader, and precisely why Israel developed nuclear weapons and, in concert with the United States, is determined to prevent Iran from developing its own.”
“I always considered you a lover of Jews.”
“I’m proud I was. During my reign, Jews in Iran flourished and contributed in many ways to our country. Your fanatical regime excludes so many.”
You know how unpleasant Khomeini’s eyes usually are. They’re more disturbing now.
“Point four,” he says. “‘Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missiles.’”
“I don’t think we need nuclear weapons, but we must have ballistic missiles, carrying conventional warheads, for our national defense.”
Khomeini’s may have slightly lessened his hostile manner before turning to point five. “Iran must release all U.S. citizens” and other allies “detained on spurious charges.”
“Do so. That’s a reasonable point.”
“I may, indeed. But what are the Americans to give me in return?”
“Perhaps an exchange of prisoners,” I say.
“Point six. ‘Iran must’ – all their points start with ‘must,’ which means these are ultimatums – ‘end support to Middle East terrorist groups.’ No deal. The Americans have their allies. We have ours.”
“Point seven. ‘Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.’ You’ll recall what happened when the Americans disarmed and demobilized the troops of Saddam Hussein. Our help for Shia militias saved them from ISIS, which America swears it despises. We still await a signal of U.S. appreciation.”
“It’s a better world without Saddam, who killed hundreds of thousands of our people,” I say.
“I don’t require your reminder of a tragic conflict I led us through. In contemporary Iraq we haven’t been bleeding in order to retreat and let a chaotic and hostile regime again threaten us.”
“I won’t dispute that point.”
“Point eight. ‘Iran must end its military support for the Houthi militia and work toward a peaceful settlement in Yemen.’”
“That’s reasonable,” I say.
“Not when Saudi Arabia, armed with some of the finest American jets and other weapons, slaughters Houthi civilians,” says Khomeini. “Point nine. ‘Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.’ That’s absurd. Iranian and Russian forces have bled, with those of President Assad in Syria, to defeat ISIS and other terrorists and traitors. We’ll certainly stay as long as our allies need us. We must also be there to breathe hot air on the Zionists.”
“If so, my dear Ayatollah, the Israelis and the Americans will surely breathe hotter air on us.”
“Not with impunity. Point ten. ‘Iran must end support’ for the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the region.”
“You’re going to have to yield some points. Break with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
“Impossible. Americans in Afghanistan continue to aid terrorist operations inside Iran. The Taliban was once the enemy of both Iran and the United States. Now the Taliban’s fighting a giant who plans to stay forever.
“Point eleven, ‘Iran must end the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qods Force’s support for terrorists’ around the world. I hope the United States is sincere about stopping support for terrorists. If so, it will at once tell Israel and Saudi Arabia they ‘must’ stop murdering civilians in Gaza and Yemen.”
I gaze at Khomeini.
He exhales and says, “There’s so much these Americans say we must do. In point twelve, the final one, for today – there will doubtless be many others – ‘Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors,’ including such bad actors as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Will you please help me draft our response, my dear Shah?”
“But of course.”
“The United States must forevermore cease terroristic and genocidal attacks against the people of countries such as North Korea, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian victims, the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and…”
“Just a minute. Let me get more paper.”