One finds the ruling regimes in Iran and North Korea have a lot more in common than being in former President George Bush's “Axis of Evil” together.
'Supreme Leader' Khameini and 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong il'
With the passing of the DPRK's 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong il one aptly is reminded of the cult of personality surrounding Ayatollah Khomeini and the outburst of emotion and despair following his death in 1989. Furthermore one finds upon closer examination and overall evaluation and comparison that the totalitarian systems imposed upon the North Koreans and the Iranians are strikingly similar in their totalitarian nature and respective propagation of propaganda.
In 2002 when President Bush declared an Axis of Evil and from his pulpit proclaimed it to consist of Iran, North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq one thing was clear to the keen observer from the get go – that being the fact that the Iranian people hadn't been reduced to the state of the literal serfs that had been made out of the Iraqi and North Korean people.
While the UN mandated international sanctions imposed on Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War starved the feeble Iraqi people in their thousands Saddam Hussein was still able to build a lavish palace for himself in every one of Iraq's provinces. In North Korea little over three years before Bush's speech a famine had killed upwards to 3 million as the nations crops once again failed to feed the majority of the people who struggled to stay alive by eating grass and muck in order to have something in their stomachs, both people lived in a constant state of abject fear.
Iran at this time on the other hand was undergoing a hopeful time of liberal reforms under President Khatami which saw the countries youth having a vested interest in the countries political system and hopes for a brighter and more prosperous future.
So while the Iranian people are much more well off than the North Koreans (not a substantial amount more democracy wise in the last year or so – but I digress) their leadership shares a unique commonality with the North Korean one that I will strive to illustrate:
North Koreans are treated as if they are vulnerable, weak and innocent children protected by a figurative paternal father against a harsh and cruel world. This figurative father was Kim il Sung who when he passed away in 1994 left behind over 20 million Koreans sobbing uncontrollably, their tears for the most part seemed genuine, because since at least 1953 Kim il Sung had started one of the most elaborate personality cults centred around himself and gradually isolated the northern part of the Korean peninsula to the status of a hermit kingdom with his Juche (self-sufficiency) ideology. For the most part North Koreans don't know the reality of the outside world as the country has virtually no access to any information that doesn't follow the party line. The people there have been made into malnourished minions, the crops are continually failing and the country is becoming even more reliant on foreign aid from the powers it brainwashes its people to detest – whilst at the same time building ballistic missiles to neither export to countries like Iran or Pakistan or for its own use to threaten South Korea and Japan.
The clerical regime in Iran treats its people in a similarly condescending way, however there is an actual religious name for their supposed paternal authority over them, the Vilayat-e Faqih. Previously a religious decree it states amongst other things that the insane, absentees and the poor must be given guardianship by the Guardian Jurist. Following the overthrow of the last Shah in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini formed the basis of the constitution of the then newly formed 'Islamic Republic' of Iran giving the Guardian Jurist the role of Supreme Leader over the government and in effect the Iranian people, who as a collective would be subjects of that rule.
Going back to other thing the Dear Leader and the Supreme Leader have in common. Apart from the solipsistic attitude they take with regards to their own people they also share another commonality with regards to their propagation of anti-western propaganda.
The North Korean propaganda system and party line often referred to their brethren in the south simply as the “Yankee colony” and preaches a very xenophobic view towards foreigners (the Cuban ambassador to North Korea was attacked by an angry mob of Koreans upon his visit to Pyongyang in 1965 simply because he was black) as a means of stirring up fear and animosity towards the outside world, all the while – as I've already stated – furthering their nuclear ambitions and capabilities in which to threaten their neighbours and solidify the leaderships firm positions of power and secure its hold over the publics imagination.
The present Iranian leadership since its foundation in 1979 has similarly made the country and its inhabitants social pariahs, as it continues to cynically blame all domestic and development woes on Zionists, western imperialism and the age old wretched Anglo-Saxon's. Unlike in North Korea however this ostentatiousness is as clear as day to most Iranians, and they for the most part have outgrown and seen through the shallow idea that – like their North Korean counterparts are raised to believe – they are vulnerable and feeble children whom require the tutelage of a regime made up of aged clerics. This regime has in the name of God imposed a theocratical totalitarian entity upon Persia and her inhabitants, subjugating them to an infantile level of intellect and accordingly treating them with despicably high levels of condescension and contempt.
As the Professor of Iranian History from the University of St. Andrews Ali Ansari stated, Iran is an educated society that has a God King, as he mildly but firmly put it, we live in a world where there is no longer any room for the God King.
Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly column 'Broadened Vistas' appears here on Wednesdays.