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Iran’s Fawning Western Apologists

The last Shah of Iran, ousted by revolution in 1979, often warned of “the accursed alliance of the red and the black” that threatened his country. By this he meant the union between the radical Left and Islamist reactionaries, two ideological camps that, in theory, should have little common ground.

My family, which had leftist leanings and opposed the monarchy, left Iran when I was young. I have never had a taste for monarchy, neither in my native Iran nor my adopted country of Canada, and am not usually fond of quoting the Shah, a monarch who ruled Iran as an imperial state. But in recent days, as I’ve observed reactions to the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leader Qassem Soleimani, I must admit that, when it came to red and black, the Shah was quite astute. And it will be interesting to see which side Western leftists support now that there is a real threat of regional war.

Soleimani was killed in Baghdad by a U.S. drone strike on January 3. Since the Iranian Revolution, he had served in various military roles, ending with a nearly two-decade tenure as top commander of Iran’s Quds force, a sub-unit of the IRGC specializing in extra-territorial and “unconventional” warfare. As commander, Soleimani was directly or indirectly responsible for a wide range of brutalities, including the provision of support to Syrian leader Bashar Assad during that country’s ongoing civil war—which, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has killed nearly 600,000 people. The Iranian dictatorship was never put out by the body count, because it operated on the stated premise that, as one Iranian cleric put it, “if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.”

The enraged public reaction to the killing of Soleimani in Tehran, Beirut and Baghdad was predictable. What was more surprising—at least to those unschooled in that “accursed alliance”—was the manner by which many Western leftists repeated the Ayatollahs’ talking points.

Fresh from her junket to Iran, the national co-director of CodePink, “a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs,” called Soleimani a “national hero.” Rania Khalek, a Lebanese-American contributor to leftist publications such as The Nation, Salon and AlterNet, and herself a recent state-approved visitor to Assad’s Syria, equated the killing of Soleimani with “Iran taking out Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Captain America all in one.” Actress Rose McGowan, a voluble advocate for progressive causes, posted a bizarre tweet in which she apologized to Iran (whose pre-revolution flag she reproduced with emojis), and called the United States government “a terrorist regime.” Fellow actress Sharon Stone sent out a video of a massive funeral procession for Soleimani, along with the deadpan line “What do u think of this?” Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, an activist best known for kneeling during the U.S. national anthem in protest of police brutality, explained how such brutality was linked to American militarism, as they both are about the “sanction[ing] and besieg[ing of] Black and Brown bodies.”

Of course, reasonable people can debate whether Donald Trump was correct to order the execution of Soleimani (not to mention the men who died in the same drone attack near Baghdad’s international airport, including Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, an Iraqi militia commander). But it is strange to denounce America without considering Soleimani’s involvement in mass murder all over the region—including in Iran itself, where the IRGC helped quell a recent mass rebellion in which about 1,500 protesters are believed to have died. Moreover, how many of America’s critics could explain why Soleimani was in Iraq at the time he was killed? For months, Iraqi citizens had been protesting against Iranian control of their country. Did the “Brown bodies” that Kaepernick tweeted about include the Syrian children, Iranian dissidents and Iraqi opposition figures who’ve been killed in operations that Soleimani and his men have masterminded?

War is hell and, all other factors being equal, we all want peace. But the cause of “peace” activism now often operates as a cover for leftist hashtaggers acting as propagandists for dictators who spit on everything that Western leftists claim to support, including democracy, pluralism, feminism and LGBT rights. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once noted, when the Soviets realized that they had fallen behind in the nuclear arms race, they “changed their tactics. Then they suddenly became advocates of peace at any cost. They started to convoke peace congresses, to circulate petitions for peace, and the western world fell for this deceit. [But] although an open war could not be conducted, they could still carry out their oppression behind the scene—terrorism, [p]artisan war, violence, prisons, concentration camps. I ask you: Is this peace?”

The Soviet Union is long gone. But this tactic lives on. Think of the way activists Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, co-chairs of the anti-Trump Women’s March, embraced Louis Farrakhan, the notoriously anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam and frequent visitor to Iran, all while attacking anti-theocratic feminists such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the most vulgar terms imaginable. Or consider how large segments of the Western Left reacted to the 2015 Islamist terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. No less a leftist hero than Glen Greenwald heaped scorn upon Charlie Hebdo, essentially accusing it of racism because it had dared to defy Islamist pieties.

It is true that war brings out the blinkered jingoism of the right. But it also brings out the inverted racism that has emerged as a by-product from the combination of Marxism and social-justice ideology that now constitutes the house creed of online progressive activism. In this conception of foreign affairs, those who act in opposition to Western interests—whether they kill thousands, such as Soleimani, or a mere dozen, as with the Charlie Hebdo killers—cannot exist on the wrong side of history.

In the late 1970s, a temporary alliance between Iran’s leftist, pro-Soviet Tudeh party and Khomeinist theocrats spelled doom for the Shah of Iran. But Western progressives would be wise to remember that when the Islamists were finished with the Shah, they turned their guns on the Left. By 1982, Tudeh members were being purged from positions in government. Thousands of party rank-and-file were arrested, and the Tudeh leadership turned up on government propaganda videos, praising the one-party dictatorship created by their theocratic overlords. The Left may have its “useful idiots.” But as recent events show, so, too, do the Ayatollahs.


Kaveh Shahrooz is a Toronto-based lawyer, human rights activist, and Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @kshahrooz.

Featured Image: National Day of Action: U.S. Troops Out of Iraq, Washington, D.C., January, 2020. 


  1. It’s difficult to decide whether these “pro-peace” protesters are sniveling Chamberlains who don’t understand deterrence and don’t care about the Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians Soleimani brutalized, or radicalized leftist anti-Semitic authoritarians who feel a genuine kinship with the Islamic socialists who rule Iran. There’s probably some of both.

    Call me jingoistic, but I celebrated Soleimani’s demise with a bottle of champagne on a beautiful beach with friends. May his death bring some peace to the families of those he’s killed, and be the beginning of the end of this brutal dictatorship. I pray for freedom for the people of Iran.

  2. I haven’t, but my husband has, and toasting Soleimani’s death was his idea.

    But not Canadian women, unfortunately. My husband looked into joining when we moved here. No dice.

    Retribution for their attack on the American Embassy in Iraq is necessary to establish deterrence. History demonstrates that when you appease nationalist socialists and let them run roughshod over their neighbours, you create a bigger problem down the line, that takes more blood and treasure to deal with than if you establish deterrence as soon as possible.

  3. Ah, the old tired trope about people only being able to support their country through being soldiers. What a load of old wank, china.

    I am involved with military charities and as such talk to a lot of young men in the Special Forces who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not one of them begrudges the civilians who ask them to fight. The soldiers have in fact joined up because they want to serve.

    That is a more cogent comment, even though you used ‘‘less’’ when you should used ‘‘fewer’’. I must admit, I don’t really care as much about the human rights in those places as I do about the safety of westerners and the upholding of their interests. The problem is that we are in a fight against a dreadful ideology that fuels attacks on us. Putting troops on the ground to combat this ideology is a waste of time if we cannot replace the ideology with another more friendly ethos.

    Our best hope seems to be to destablisie the area in the hope that the bastards over there will then concentrate on killing each other more than killing us. The problem with this of course is that in the meantime one half of our elites are engaged in the oikophbic exercise of taking the sould out of our culture and overseeing demographic suicide whilst increasing immigration from other cultures, most tellingly cultures that embrace the idology that despises western civilisation.

  4. I am opposed to the USA going to war with Iran and the “never-ending wars”, but killing the Iranian terrorist general does not commit us to going to war against them. The President of the USA possesses the power to protect it citizens all over the world, and he does not require an act of Congress for a declaration war to accomplish that duty.

  5. This was a good article.

    Should anyone have any doubts about Iran’s involvement in international terrorism, there are some salient data points which is that the Iranian regime have been directly tied to thwarted terrorist bomb attacks in France and in Denmark and also two assassinations of Iranian dissidents in the Netherlands in the last few years. I always felt these news stories never got the attention they deserved.

    The quote from Solshenytsin is perfect: is this peace?

    We must also bear in mind the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia, the downing of a US drone, and then killing of one US personnel in missile attacks, and, after the reprisal on Shia militia forces, the threat to the US Embassy in Iraq. It is clear that the fact that the US failed to retaliate until the killing of a US citizen emboldened Iran to escalate the conflict.

    It was high time the US responded to the aggression from Iran, and its action struck the right balance of targeting a relevant person who had a central role in previous and ongoing terrorism throughout the world, and has helped to make clear that being affiliated to a state is not an immunity from being prosecuted as a terrorist.

    Ultimately, a lot of the talk of war is overblown. I suspect it is far more likely that there will just be ongoing tit for tat for the immediate future. It is now important for the US not to antagonise the Iranian population against it, so the talk of going after cultural sites would be ill advised. Instead, the US should continue to target key individuals in the Iranian revolutionary guard, possibly those who have been named as involved in the terrorist attacks in Europe as a start.

  6. One guy, one drone and now all of the sudden there is going to be a full fledged shooting war? Why does everything the Trump administration do consistently produce hysterical over blown responses? It is estimated that the Obama administration oversaw more than 540 drone strikes resulting in over 3,700 deaths. Perhaps the point of eliminating Soleimani was simply to remind those who would strike at Americans, the U.S. can find and kill them.

  7. Soleimani was organizing militias to carry out more attacks on Americans and their allies, at least according to reports like the Reuters one linked below. That made him a perfectly valid target for a defensive attack carried out with quite admirable surgical precision.

    The rest is just fluff.

  8. Quillette really needs a downvote button for posts like these.

  9. I complain about over blown hysterical responses and you reply with this opening drama queen sentence: “I’ve never been so amazed by your lack insight here which is never this bad.”

    Well before you get a case of the vapors and rush to the fainting coach, were you this upset about legalities when President Obama assassinated an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, or his sixteen year old son two weeks later in Yemen? Where you born when Ronald Reagan tried to kill Muammar Gaddafi (the head of Libya) with an air strike and killed his son? All weapons of war are deterrents. Try living long without them.

    Quit wishing for the magic bullet that will end the Trump Presidency. If Democrats do not wish Trump re-elected they must do at least one of the following: 1. Find an issue he is at odds with his base on Ex. Bush 41 and tax cuts, 2. Find an issue that divides his voters Ex. Free Trade v. Sanctions or immigration issues or 3. Find an issue that appeals to Trump voters but turns off independents or vice versa.

    Extreme right wingers do the same thing. Any minute there is going to be some earth shattering revelation that sends Hillary, McCabe Strok and so on to jail.

    If you honestly believe there is a case to be made against Trump or his administration, then make it but spare us all the over blown hysterical hyperbole.

  10. I agree, wish the leftists would knock it off.

    It’s also possible to say what you want to say without being boorish, and rude. At the risk of opening myself up to one of your frightening personal attacks, I would strongly encourage you to consider switching to decaf.

  11. Trump wouldn’t be the first person on the sideline to snipe at a sitting president. JFK invented the missile gap to attack Eisenhower and by extension Nixon, and because US missile numbers were then a state secret the administration couldn’t respond to correct Kennedy’s false charge.

    But let’s assess. Has Trump started a war or responded to a series of provocations perpetrated by Iran and its proxies? Clearly it’s the latter. Not only was Iran behind the attacks on US personnel that killed one on 27 Dec, it was also involved in the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad on 31 Dec. Moreover, Trump didn’t respond to the Iranian downing of a US drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz on 25 June, didn’t get involved with Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker on 19 July, and didn’t respond with violence to Iran’s unprovoked missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia on 14 Sep. And these are only the most recent violent acts. Iran was behind many more attacks that killed an estimated 600 US military personnel plus many others from allied states. And let’s not forget the murders of countless Sunnis Soleimani was behind - there’s a long, ongoing religious war between Shi’a and Sunni.

    Any clear headed person would conclude that Iran is itching for a fight and is the provocateur. How Trump differs from Bush the younger and Obama is where they were content to respond against Iran by targeting its proxies’ lowly conscripts in the trenches and barracks, Trump recognised who the perpetrator is and incinerated him. Prior American timidity had only emboldened Soleimani, having him think he possessesd the privilege of untouchability. Trump not only checked that… he revoked it.

    Seems to me the US ought to begin developing and supporting domestic insurgents in Iran, such as Kurds, Arabs, and secularists with weapons to create the instability for Iran that it has brought to Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. This doesn’t require the US to put boots on the ground in Iran, but covert acts against Iranian militants overseas and their proxies need to be conducted.

    Iran has been waging a near 40-year war with the US, and it’s good there’s an administration that’s decided enough is enough.

  12. Yet, Muslims are not a race. You know that, right?

    Who’s demanding anyone shut up? Where any religious-affiliated publications ordered closed? Who’s being silenced? Perhaps you can substantiate rather than merely assert?

    In France, only 5 to 8 per cent of Catholics attend Mass once a week. Many of the practicing Catholics are themselves are from immigrant communities. Other Christian denominations in France are very, very small, and again, like the Catholics, are mostly non-practicing former members. So, what is this “Christian majority” you speak of? It’s an agnostic and atheist majority, if we want to describe it accurately.

    I’m curios though about this “more villainised” assertion. How many Muslims have been harassed, attacked, and killed in French streets? Are “Christian” Frenchmen strolling into Muslim Frenchmen’s newspapers and gunning down the journalists? And what you call “Christians”, whether Christian or not, are they being harassed, attacked, and killed by Muslims? You been to Marseille, Sevran, or Paris’s 5th arrondissement? If anyone is being actually targeted for harassment and violence, it’s French Jews… most often at the hands of French Muslims.

    Do raw numbers really matter? If 5% of the population are abusive or violent arseholes and the rest not, are they entitled to kindler, gentler treatment simply because there are fewer of them? Young men tend to be worse behaved than boys and older men, who are numerically more. Do we cut the young men slack because they are outnumbered by all other males and females as well?

    Seems you have a make believe idea about France. I have to question your criteria. It appears your opinion is ruled by your ability to differentiate colour and count numbers. Kind of basic - the skills of pre-school aged child - don’t ya think?

  13. No, it’s not. Sure, you can assert this. But, it doesn’t make it so. I’m more than happy for substance. But making the argument why certain groups are to be given the light tough simply because of numbers strikes me as very stupid. People keep serving thin and tepid broth whilst claiming it’s substantive and nourishing. Get a new chef.

    It’s an ideology. People routinely smear Christians, Mormons, Scientologists, Moonies, Hari Krishnas, Satanists, and other believers. Other than Christians, the ones I listed are numerically few. Do they get a pass in your world of make believe? May a Moonie take the piss out of Islam and Muslims? Non-religious ideologies that get (deservedly) smeared include Marxists, Maoists, Trotskyites, Naxalists, Nazis, Fascists, Falangists, Shiv Shena, and others. The Trots and the Falangists are numerically fewer than the Marxists and Maoists. They given your special dispensation as well?

    Heck, Charlie Hebdo, which espouses a hostilely irreligious belief, is the fewest of them all… even before much of the staff was murdered. By your standard of numbers being the determiner, they should have free rein.

    Counting is fun.

    Oops, forgot about this one. So, you’re saying the difference between a race and an ideology is so minor as to be inconsequential? Practically one and the same? You’re going to have to substantiate that. Or, you may choose to use words correctly. The latter is the easier option.

  14. Bless you for saying this. Conflating a set of ideas with a type of person who may hold those ideas, represents a mode of thinking that is always worthy of public ridicule. I only wish more people would take note.

    Despite my objections, I see islamophobe thrown around all the time and by otherwise intelligent people who should know better. I cannot countenance ignorance of this order. Allowing its continuance is an affront to both the language and common sense.

  15. I am afraid of Muslim people. I would not risk traveling to a Muslim-majority country, and I would not live in a Muslim-heavy neighborhood. It’s not because I think all Muslim people are dangerous, it is that I am aware of the greater prevalence of misogyny and anti-Semitism recorded in opinion research polls. Their generally medieval cultural attitudes combined with their high birth rates pose a danger to the democratic societies they are migrating to. Without any push to integrate them, we are allowing pockets of the world’s backwater to open up in our own backyard, endangering women, Jews, gays, ect.

    Does this mean I am “Islamophobic?” No. My fear of Islam is amply justified, meaning it cannot be characterized as a “phobia.”

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