WASHINGTON, DC – Iran’s clerical regime governs by a simple formula: he who is the most frightening, wins. “Victory by terrifying” is trope that is present in many of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speeches. Indeed, it is a reliable guide to his political philosophy.
This view was not invented by Khamenei, but rather is drawn from the Koran and the Shiite tradition. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard have uniforms bearing a Koranic verse that reads, “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; God knows them.” Furthermore, in the Shiite tradition, the strategy of the Mahdi, the Shiite Messiah, will be to intimidate all his enemies upon his return to Earth.
But cultivating fear in others also makes one more susceptible to fear, and nothing is more frightening to Khamenei and the leaders of the Islamic Republic than the social dynamism unleashed by the democratic movement brewing inside the country.
The regime seems convinced that there is only a small likelihood of a military attack on its nuclear program. It does not believe that sanctions can bring about its collapse. Thus, external forces do not appear to pose much of a threat.