We started our story with Dr. Sick, but it continues with another interesting character: a pistachio farmer.
Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is pistachio farmer. I love pistachios, but I think that I like them a Little less now because Rafsanjani helped put us where we are.
Rafsanjani is a religious zealot that doesn’t see corruption as contradicting that zealotry. Here’s a clip from the article Mullahs vs. Mullahs (Part 1) by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and Elio Bonazzi:
The 1979 revolution turned the Rafsanjanis from pistachio farmers into moguls. One Rafsanjani brother became the chief of Iranâ€™s entire copper mining industry; another one annexed the state-run television. Meanwhile, a brother-in-law became the governor of their home province of Kerman, and one of the cousins became the head of the nearly half-a-billion-dollar a year pistachio business. Rafsanjaniâ€™s son and one of his nephews got the best possible jobs at the Iranian National Oil Company, while another son took charge of the entire Tehran metro construction project which is said to have cost close to a billion dollars. Conducting business through various non-profit organizations and front companies, the family is known to be running Iranâ€™s biggest oil engineering company, a Daewoo automobile assembly plant and Iranâ€™s private airline, among others.Â
Enter yet another farmer to our story. This time, peanuts.Â
When a certain peanut farmer from GeorgiaÂ became president in 1977, Dr. Sick must have come to him, drawing parallels between pistachios and peanuts.Â I can well imagine Jimmy thinking ofÂ Rafsanjani as a kindred spirit, a man of the earth. Jimmy was the kind of guy that thought well of people like Rafsanjani.
We certainly know that Jimmy saw Khomeini as a ‘holy man’, andÂ his ambassador to Iran praised Khomeini, referring to himÂ asÂ ‘Ghandi-like’.
Anyway, the peanut farmer from Georgia was a perfect student for theÂ diseasedÂ foreign policyÂ advocated by Dr. Sick.
(Whoops, we’re running out of time, so let me fast-forward.)
The Shah depended on US support to keep the Islamists at bay, but Carter’s ‘enlightened’ policies pulled theÂ rug out from underneath him. The Shah didn’t have a chance. Carter pressured him to stop holding back the mullahs and let Khomeini return. The rest, as they say, is history.
The bottom line is that Khomeini could neverÂ have come to power without Carter’s support. Never.
Then Carter got a bit of his own back with theÂ hostage crisis and the failed rescue attempt. Carter had egg on his face andÂ fell from power.
However, with Reagan in power, and then Bush Sr., Iran had a problem. So, they worked up a plan to soft-peddle their Islamic revolution. They brought in ‘The Smiling Mullah’Â Mohammad Khatami – while at the same timeÂ increasing the number death squadsÂ tasked with hunting down journalists and accelerating their nuclear program.
And, behind all of this was our pistachio farmer, Rafsanjani.Â And, to be fair, his plans seemed toÂ work for a while. With his string pulling, Iran had anÂ urbane, sophisticated face, while the country quietlyÂ slid deeper and deeper into the IslamicÂ dark ages.
And then, they screwed up.
The economy went south, and RafsanjaniÂ made some diplomatic blunders. The ‘pragmatic-conservatives’ lost their grip on power.Â AllÂ of theirÂ hand-picked candidates lost power,Â and in their place they got Ahmadinejad.
But, maybe you don’t see the irony of it all.
The ‘Political Realists’ in the US State DepartmentÂ trustedÂ Rafsanjani and theÂ ‘smiling mullah’Â to be pragmatic, to be careful about going too far. And they, in turn,Â assured us that they’d be careful
ThenÂ they played us for all that they could get.
What a bunch of suckersÂ theyÂ were.Â (Political Realists generally, are.)Â
And then all the reasonable realism and careful corruptionÂ fell apart. The Messianics swept into power, and their charismatic young leader Adolf Hi-, I mean, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over.
TheÂ US State DepartmentÂ and the ‘pragmatic conservatives’ in Iran had beenÂ pattingÂ themselves on the back at how good they were at the cleverÂ game of political realism, and then the hotheads came to power and changed the game.
Everybody got just a Little too clever, and it all fell apart.
How very ironic.
Israel has paid a terrible price for the US State Department’s ‘Political Realism’, so it’s appropriate that they should face this ‘turnabout’. Except they won’t be facing it. You and I and our children will be the ones to face it.
And to think that it all started with a couple good ol’ farmers.