Islamist Iran is Absolutely Nothing Like Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler and Ali Khamenei

Adolf Hitler and Ali Khamenei

The neocons (aka Trotskyists—communists) have been trotting (heh) out a bunch of nonsense comparing Obama and the West to Neville Chamberlain because of the supposedly weak deal made with Iran over its nuclear program. Personally, I dont think Iran is producing nuclear weapons, but thats another story. The neocons are fearmongering that Iran will do something bad next, hinting at what Hitler did, but usually they are only able to come up with nuking or attacking Israel, Europe, and America.

Lets take a look at what actually happened in Nazi Germany and Islamist Iran. I am going to ignore the justifications used for some of these actions to maintain impartiality.

Expansion of Nazi Germany

Expansion of Nazi Germany

Hitler built up the armed forces somewhat quietly, then remilitarized the Rhineland, began to implement economic restrictions and reorganization, forced a unification with Austria, went after German-speaking Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. After that, he mopped up a few more areas, invaded Poland, and commenced multiple genocides. And near the end, Germany did actually pursue nuclear weapons.

In contrast, Iran has not modified its military really at all since 1979. If anything, it declined, and bought some Soviet/Russian hardware to replace aging American stock (yes, we supplied Iran with weapons before 1979). It did threaten to mine the Straits of Hormuz. It has not tried to take over any territory, except a small border dispute with Iraq in the 1980s. It has never committed genocide. Finally, there is actually no evidence they are pursuing nuclear weapons (altho they may indeed be).

Already, its becoming clear that the geopolitical situations are incomparable. Iran does have proxies and allies, but so does everyone else. Irans vassals, if they can even be termed such, are far more independent than Vichy France or the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Germany basically controlled the two; Iran merely partially bankrolls and advises its allies.

Germany had been an industrial power, and despite the devastation of the Great War and the Treaty of Versailles, it still had the ability to reindustrialize. Indeed, it did so. Iran is not an industrial power and never has been. It has been modernized (less so now than prior to 1979), but its oil industry has been weak for decades. It is a very backwards country with agriculture being the leading industry. If agriculture is the leading industry, you are a poor country.

In 1935, Nazi Germany had a GDP per capita of about $4100. Iran today has a GDP per capita of $5165. One might say that this proves Iran is better off than Germany was in 1935. Perhaps in a relative sense, just like the poor of today live better lives than medieval kings. But that is not really relevant to the power of each in its world. To compare, the United States, in 1935, had a GDP per capita of $6100. That means Nazi Germany had a  GDP per capita about 67% of the United States. Today, the United States has a GDP per capita of $54,600. That means, Iran has a GDP per capita about 9.5% of the United States. The United States has grown relatively stronger (perhaps I should use percentage of world GDP), but I doubt enough that it would affect the vast difference between 9.5% and 67%. That basically makes Iran today comparable to China in 1935. China was a nothing backwater in 1935. Thats how it came to be occupied very easily by Japan.

Iranian employment by sector

Iranian employment by sector

Within a year of taking power in 1933, Hitler outlawed all opposition parties. They remained illegal for the rest of Nazi rule. And after 1938, they just did away with elections. Iran has always maintained competitive elections. At first, the only opposition were Independents, however, they often made up a majority and always were about half. By 1996, there was a serious opposition reformist party, and ever since, elections have been fully competitive, however candidates do require approval by a special body appointed by the Supreme Leader. Jews and other minorities even receive a special seat each. No one had that in Nazi Germany. The elections are not really considered free, but they are better than Nazi elections by far. There is a choice, even if it is somewhat restricted.

The Rich Kids of Tehran can be mesmerizing.

The Rich Kids of Tehran can be mesmerizing.

Iranians are not too fond of their government. The infamous President Ahmadinejad was a populist and liked by the rural poor, but he had a lot of enemies among the clerics and the urban middle class and rich. When he was reelected in 2009, there were massive protests and controversies. These were ultimately suppressed, but were allowed for a time. Nothing comparable was even dared in 1933 Germany. Iranians openly defy their government. Men get unapproved haircuts, women show a little hair in public (and often all of it in private). It would be like a Jew going out of his house without a yellow star, which never openly happened. But it does in Iran.

If Iran were to attack another country, even Israel, with nuclear weapons, or anything at all, it would face swift retribution. It would be flattened. The Iranian people are not suicidal; they would riot and overthrow the government if this was even a risk. They came close to overthrowing it in 2009. The Iranian government may be extreme and apocalyptic, but they are not suicidal. They want power just like everyone else. Pursuing nuclear weapons and using them or giving them to terrorist groups would threaten that power. The Iranians are a stable minded people. I would worry more about Pakistan. And those nuclear weapons sold on the black market in Russia. And yet, no terrorist group has ever even tried a nuclear attack. They may one day, but they have already had the means to do so for twenty years and havent. In any case, the threat of this does not come from Iran.

While Iran certainly aspires to rejoin the world powers, they are not there yet. Their antagonism has a reason. They were upset by the 1953 coup, the screwing around in 1979, and the constant hatred from the West since Bush listed them in an “Axis of Evil”. That speech alone probably is what got Ahmadinejad elected after a reformist moderate was pursuing reconciliation. Unfortunately, the West and the neocons still dont get it. They still support insane dictators of unstable people (Saudi Arabia, Jordan). This makes Iran even more upset and frustrated. Iranians would love to support America. Many remember the good old days before 1979. The current Supreme Leader is on his last breaths, and his successor is likely to be more moderate. With the seeds planted in 2009, it will only be a matter of time before Iranians rise up and institute a more liberal system that will be friendly to the West.

“Where is my vote?” — The Green Revolution in Iran

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