As Americans struggle with the loss of wealth resulting from the ongoing credit crunch, subprime mortgage meltdown, and subsequent stock drops, the leading figures of the Islamic Republic of Iran are cheering unabashedly.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gloated recently that the United States is paying the price for exporting inflation and deficits to the rest of the world, "Now the world capacity is full and these problems have returned ... And finally they are oppressors, and systems based on oppression and unrighteous positions will not endure," he said.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also reveled in the financial crisis, expressing his hope that it marked the end of U.S. domination over the world economy. "The false bubble of money in the West has broken," he said on state television, adding that the recent mortgage meltdown was the beginning of the end for free market capitalism.
Similarly, Iranian Guardian Council secretary and interim Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati professed that the U.S.'s economic crisis was "divine punishment." He stated, "we are happy that the United States economy has come across difficulty. They are attesting unfavorable consequences of their conduct.They are experiencing divine punishment. We are happy over that. The unhappier they become, the happier we get, as they become happy as we get unhappy." He said that Americans could expect to be "slapped in the face by Islam, Muslims, and the Islamic Revolution."
That slap in the face may come in the form of Iran-induced higher oil prices. Indeed, Iran's Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari recently told reporters at an energy conference, "$100 and below is not suitable for oil producers or oil consumers." Iran, of course, is the world's fourth-largest exporter, and ranks among the more powerful members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a corrupt cartel that determines the level of oil production, which directly impacts the cost of oil.
Surging fuel prices have crippled U.S. consumers in recent years, adding to mounting concerns over whether America is about to enter or has already entered an economic recession.
Higher oil prices are not the only arrow in the Iranian quiver. Former Iranian president (and now powerful cleric) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gloated in a recent radio broadcast, "if the economic crisis in America is becoming a serious threat for the West and the industrial world, one of the underlying reasons is the high costs which the Americans have been forced to spend in the region in the past seven or eight years."
Indeed, Iran is one of the primary reasons the United States has been bogged down in Iraq since 2003. The Iranians have sponsored radical militias, planned and executed terrorist attacks, and fomented internecine violence between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Continuing this activity will only ensure that America expends both blood and treasure.
Several important observations can be gleaned from these unabashed celebrations in Tehran over recent American economic woes: First, there can be no doubt that, across the board, from clerics to elected leaders, the Iranian leadership is a zealous and avowed enemy of the United States.
Their uninhibited glee stemming from international financial panic appears to mirror the eagerness, expressed by Mr. Ahmadinejad and other radical leaders, to embrace the collapse of the current world order - through war or other means. In their minds, this would herald the arrival of the Twelfth Imam, or "Mahdi," (a messianic figure from the ninth century) who would reappear to signal the end of the modern world and the onset of global Islamic justice.
Moreover, while it does not state so explicitly, the Iranian leadership knows that the longer America's economic struggles continue, the harder it will be to stop their long march toward nuclear weaponization.
Thus, while it has long been understood that the defeat or overthrow of the current Iranian regime would be in the best political and military interest of the United States, it is now clear that the demise of the Islamic Republic would be a reassuring American financial victory, too.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury Department intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and author of Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, Nov 2008).