Thursday, September 13, 2012


Brigitte posed the question this morning: Why such a lot of hullabaloo about Iran and nuclear arms—when lots of other countries in earlier times acquired them without a corresponding global upheaval? Good question. Here is this long-toothed, blood-dripping, utterly aggressive nation—Whoa! Hold it! Not so. The last time Iran/Persia attempted to conquer another country was…? Well, it was 492 BC. And Persia failed. Since then? Well, helped by a BBC timeline (link), I note that Alexander the Great invaded Persia (330 BC), the Arabs invaded it (636 AD) to institute Islamic rule, Genghis Khan’s Mongols invaded (1220), Russia and the Ottomans invaded (1722); the last in a series of Russo-Persian wars ended  in 1828; Anglo-Russian forces invaded (1941), and Iraq invaded Iran (1980).

My untutored guess is that the current hullabaloo has much to do with something simple or something more complexly cultural. The simple is Israel’s fear, what with Iran in close proximity to its east. The complex answer is that Iran is the first theocracy to go nuclear, and therefore, not being safely secular and therefore predictable, brings shudders of incomprehension. Seems to me that if Saudi-Arabia planned to have nukes, no problem. Their rulers are safely rich and hedonistic; the worry would be if the royal family fell. China a ways back? Too big to tackle. How about Pakistan? Well, no hue and cry about that. Pakistan was part of India once, familiar territory. A Muslim country yes, but only, you know, so so. First, no year goes by without some Muslim-on-Muslim massacre livening up its internal affairs—and at the top safely secular rich families rule or it’s the military. Would anyone get worried about Indonesia? The world’s largest Muslim realm? No. Why? Well, they’re Muslim in a different way, don’t you know. As for Iran, well, it was once a great power, even if we have to go back to 500-plus years BC. But now a cleric runs it who can put fatwas on such lovable figures as Salman Rushdie. As Netanyahu said recently, one has to draw a red line somewhere.


  1. The Sassanid Persians tried to conquer the Byzantines in the 7th century AD, spreading the conflict to southern Arabia, Ethiopia, and the steppe lands to the north of Asia Minor. Mutual exhaustion from three decades of war immediately preceding the Arab invasions no doubt sealed their doom, ironically.

    Good thing the Turks were on Byzantium's side back then, with Persians on one side of the Bosphorus and 80,000 Slavs and Avars on the other in 626...

    Gets us about a millennium closer than the Achaemenids, anyway. I'm not saying this has any relevance whatsoever to current affairs, but it was an Iranian assault on what was then the heart of Christendom.

  2. Thanks for that corrective, Andrew. Felt myself that the BBC timeline left lots out. Maybe Persia learned something from that episode: to conquer bequests conquest...


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