These days, it is not easy, to get a clear understanding of the relationships created over time between countries and between powerful world leaders. To get some sort of an idea, you will require time and an uncensored Internet connection; moreover, you need to cut through all the noise out there and that requires critical searches beyond what we are traditionally served through media. Even if we would decide to engage, there is an overbearing risk of getting caught up in some sort of conspiracy theory. So, many of us just try to make up our own mind of what is going on in the world, based on news in our phones, newspapers and TV-channels. Unraveling the truth and unmasking serious events in familiar patterns has become far more dangerous for reporters, and as such, they naturally become more rare.
Another issue is, without sounding moralizing, that in these troubled times we are really more intrigued by entertainment news; The Royal Family, superstars and their outfits, than by human rights violations around the world. A modern form of escapism is growing in society. This is actually important, because it is a vital key to those in power, and those seeking power. It is their primary method, in everything that they do, creating distraction.
Some of these questions and thoughts were raised by seeing a picture of a well-known Russian man, participating in one of the most important religious events in Iran; the Arbaeen Commemorative March, in honor of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. The march is a big deal in Iran and Iraq, in 2018, around 1 million and seven hundred thousand Iranians registered for the event. The man standing out from the pictures was not hard to recognize; Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin, an Orthodox Christian Russian philosopher, political analyst, and strategist known for his fascist views.
Although labeled as a promoter of fascism and Nazism by international media, he is relatively well known in Iran and considered a powerful intellectual force, referred to as “Putin’s brain” and “a Great Russian philosopher” by Iran’s ultra-conservative media.
Dugin’s main focus in his work is his role as the leader of “The International Eurasian Movement” and he is the founder of the “Eurasian Party” (more details later). Dugin is considered one of Russia’s leading promoters of Traditionalism, a school of thought from early twentieth-century French origin, which could be regarded as philosophy, but has occult roots and is usually seen by scholars as a form of esotericism. This is an important issue for Dugin, who considers himself as a continuation of the post-Soviet era, in which occult dissident culture is one essential lingering aspect of the former Soviet civilization.
The Kremlin both officially and unofficially facilitates and funds Dugin’s political program. Some suggest that Putin is taking Dugin’s advice very seriously and he is also regarded an important figure to Donald Trump’s alt-right base.
In 2014 he lost his position as the head of the Sociology Department at Moscow State University, following accusations of encouraging genocide in Ukraine. The US Treasury Department used the same reason to blacklist him
Dugin has, according to himself, been traveling back and forth to Iran these last 20 years, and he is currently living in Iran. However, Dugin’s political agenda is not restricted to Iran; he has been busy building networks all over the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Iraq etc.), in his attempt to put Eurasia on the map.
Dugin’s regular official invitations to Iran have been organized by hardliners and entities associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), some of these include the newspaper Javan, the state-run Ofogh (“Horizon”) television channel and Raja News. A noticeable character, facilitating all these arrangements, is Nader Talebzadeh (more details on him later).
Dugin’s professional networking in Iran has resulted in good relations with influential politicians, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and even up to the very top with the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, whom Dugin believes “is the best solution for confronting the West”, their common ground being conservatism and anti-western philosophies.
During his stay and partaking in the Arbaeen Commemorative March 2015, Dugin met with Ayatollah Mohammad Mehdi Mir Bagheri, head of the Islamic Sciences Academy in Qom. In their talks, Dugin has been quoted saying: “Iran is the main base of war against modernity, Russia must follow Iran as the model for returning to tradition”. He suggests that there is an important correlation between Iranian religious thinkers and Russian traditionalists.
Dugin is often likened to a modern-day Rasputin, not only by his distinctive appearance and occult obsession, but also through his apocalyptic rhetoric, which resonates with his supporters. Among his supporters you will find many who believe in the coming of Messiah, who in Dugin’s view will save the world from Western globalization.
Dugin has a strong influence on Putin’s domestic policies; this is made clear by Russia’s recent refocus on collaborating closer with the Russian Orthodox Church as well as Kremlin’s support of far-right extremist parties in the West. Dugin is well known among far right leaders all over the world, including the former KKK leader David Duke, former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, Gabor Vona who led the neofascist Jobbik party as well as Steve Bannon former Chief Strategist in the Trump administration.
Interviews with Dugin often results in his promoting the concept of “Eurasia”, which in its essence is a coalition of Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran and Eastern European countries, to confront the US and the European Union. His ultimate goal is to put Russia back on the world map, more powerful than before, even more so than during the Soviet Union era. Since Saudi Arabia and Turkey are generally considered US tools, he considers Iran with its shared dislike of the US, as a powerful ally to this end
Eurasia is in fact the largest continent on Earth covering all of Europe and Asia. Across these lands, we find several regional political, economical and military organizations and the biggest player here is the Eurasian Economic Union currently holding five member states.
Each year, a member state is elected president of the Union, the post is currently held by Armenia. Putin has made clear that the future will see a Eurasian Union, powerful and sovereign, and a key player in the global market against EU and US. The Eurasian Union has already been able to counterbalance China’s central role in the market and opened up important trading blocs that have been vital for countries that are sanctioned by the EU and US, like Russia.
Much debate is ongoing in the Iranian government, the majority and most central of discussions regards the anti-western policies and the conservatives’ strong anti-US agendas. In everyday media this is portrayed as a matter of ideology, but these debates are typical distractions in order to have other goals accomplished. President Rouhani has long been acting on restricting and controlling the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) interference with Iran’s economy. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive were set up when new authorities confiscated thousands of properties and companies after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and most importantly they are controlled by the Supreme Leader. Following the privatization in 2005, the Iranian economy was taken out of government control and handed to the institutions under the direct control of the Supreme Leader.
In this private-public sector we also find charitable organizations such as the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, and Astan Quds Razavi, the largest religious endowment in Iran. To get an idea of the finances we are talking about, we go back to May 2016, when General Ebadollah Abdollahi (commander of the IRGC’s subsidiary Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters) announced that the Iranian government owes the Revolutionary Guards over $7 billion. The company is one of the biggest contractors in Iran and according to First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri; the Iranian government paid the company close to $39 billion for ongoing projects between March 20 and December 20, 2016.
The IRGC controls multiple financial institutions and businesses in Iran, there are no estimates of their net worth or the magnitude of their businesses, it is however a well-known fact that the IRGC is more a business than a military institution.
So what are the current relations between Iran and Russia built on? Ever since Iran lost imperial territory to Tsarist Russia in the 19th century, and following the Russian Revolution, when Iran resisted territorial ambitions of Lenin and Stalin, relations between the two have been somewhat frozen. Images of confrontations with a powerful northern neighbor are deeply rooted in Iran, but following the collapse of the Soviet Union relations improved, and more so after Vladimir Putin became president.
The hesitation to become even closer is not only related to the territorial domination of Russia, but also their cunning networking that was initiated after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Agents were sent to create the first communist party of Iran, and helped to create the first Soviet Republic of Iran in the Gilan province. These actions caused Britain to seek authority in Iran by placing Reza Khan in a central position and ultimately made him Shah of Iran in 1925.
The engagement and actions by these countries are not only reflecting matters of ideology (spreading communism in the area etc.); but rather the driving force has to do with protecting imperial economic (read oil business) and military interests.
During Khomeini’s reign, relations were again strained with Russia, mainly based on Khomeinis views on communism and Soviet atheism, even though he knew how relations with Russia could be used against the United States (also reflected by Khomeini’s support fighting the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in December 1979).
The relations between Iran and Russia have varied over time, however threatening it was, observing a theocracy taking over, the Russians found common ground with the Iranians in their ability to despise the US/West. In fact, the Iranian revolution was depicted as an anti-American revolution in the Soviet Union and there was an underlying anticipation that a pro-western country in the region would now transform into a pro-Soviet one instead. Forces of ideology, religion, modernity, conservatism, and capitalism were stirring this soup then and they still are.
With the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991 most factors undermining relations between Moscow and Tehran had evaporated. Communism had collapsed more or less and Khomeini had died in 1989. Russia, already an important arms supplier to Iran throughout the Iran-Iraq war, also became a critical contributor to the nuclear project. Although relations still have its ups and downs, historical events have created a strong platform for networking today.
Nader Talebzadeh, mentioned earlier, is an Iranian-American citizen, born 1953 in Tehran, he left Iran early on for the United States, where he attended Columbia University Film School, in New York City. He is an Iranian filmmaker, mostly known for his film “The Messiah“ where he tells the story of Jesus from his point of view or, as he would like to put it “through Islam’s eye”. He hosts several TV shows, according to his own credentials on his website his shows have been watched by more than 8 – 10 million viewers every week. His latest TV program: “Nader’s Show” is currently being aired in English and can be found in every social media platform.
On “Nader’s Show”, Talebzadeh describes himself as a student of Filmmaking during the 70ies in the US, but recently he has turned into more noble projects, where he performs interviews with US dissidents and whistleblowers. He is here to be “the voice of the voiceless” he says. In this case, the voiceless are represented by those who have been objected to government or corporate media sanctions.
Nader Talebzadeh is not only a filmmaker; he is also a professional networker. He is the chairman and founder of “The International Institute of Independent Thinkers and Artists (New Horizon)”, a Tehran-based non Governmental Organization, which organize multiple international conferences on subjects such as (their own description on the website): “World and regional matters, geopolitics (in both Middle East and Eurasia), Muslims in Europe, Islamophobia, Iranophobia, US hostility towards Afro-Americans, Zionist Lobby, 911, Israeli-Western decision centers (political, military, economic and cultural), US domestic an foreign policy etc”. Looking into these conferences, we find that the subjects discussed are even heavier than those described above. The New Horizon conferences are in fact suggested to be connecting platforms for organizations like the IRGC to recruit and collect intelligence from the participants.
Now, to the issue of being “a non-governmental organization”, The New Horizon organization is collaborating with Astan Quds Razavi’s Youths Institute and the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), two both impressive muscles of the Iranian economy. These charitable trusts (Astan Quds Razavi’s Youths Institute) play a major role in Iran’s non-petroleum economy, controlling an estimated 20% of Iran’s GDP and channeling revenues to groups supporting the Islamic Republic, and of course they are exempt from taxes. The administrative organization of Astan Quds Razavi is considered the longest-lasting organization since the martyrdom of Imam Reza about 1200 years ago. The main resource of the institution is endowments, estimated to have annual revenue of $210 billion. It is a huge economic institution led by whomever the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, chooses to appoint at the position. So, money is really not a problem for this organization, which is quite clear, with Nader Talebzadeh’s ability to fund international conferences annually in several countries, inviting people from all over the world, paying for their travels and hotel accommodations, leading and hosting numerous TV-shows and websites.
In reality, we are looking at organized events for people expressing anti-democratic, fascist and anti-Semitic views that they make no effort to conceal. In a recent interview with conservative Fars News Agency (with close connection to IRGC) Nader Talebzadeh described New Horizon’s conferences as “the most powerful anti-Zionist conference” in the Islamic republic. Journalists, that have attended but regretted their participating, have described a platform for extremist views on conspiracy theories about for example 9/11 and Judaism. The U.S. Treasury added New Horizon to the list of sanctioned organizations, this did however not stop the conference from taking place, this year’s conference was held in Beirut and the next conference will take place in Iraq.
Nader Talebzadeh does seem pretty relaxed about himself and his organization being classified as a global terrorist organization and explains in an interview with Ofogh TV “the Zionists inside America are the enemies who planned these sanctions” he further explained that the real enemies are so called neocons (American-Israelis). He continues in the interview “Bolton himself is Christian, but the others, like Mnuchin, are Zionist Jews”. But the subjects of the conferences do not stop at conspiracy theories and anti-semitic views, a regular speaker at these conferences is Mr. Dugin himself, promoting his “neo-Eurasianist” ideology, which he hopes will be engineered by far right parties and states including the Austrian Freedom Party, Italy’s League, Iran and President Trump’s alt-right base.
This is a bizarre collection of extremists expressing their views and a perfect spot for intelligence personnel recruiters. To make things look less extreme New Horizon organizes sister conferences named “Hollywoodism” and “All Against Arrogance”. These are conferences touching on “lighter” subjects, but still attract the most obscure figures, like Monica Witt, who ultimately ended up involved in international espionage.
Subjects like, racial discrimination on Afro-Americans by the police in the US are raised and how Hollywood manipulates and produces propaganda pictures, like the movie “Argo”. They also put a lot of effort on highlighting interviews with famous people, such as the American film director; Oliver Stone’s son; Sean Stone, talking about his experiences in converting to Islam in 2012.
What an interesting combination, Dugin and Talebzadeh, the first promoting anti-democratic and extremist views through his role as an influential self-declared philosopher, mediated through the latter a professional film maker taking propaganda to a new level, navigating the media, opening platforms for some of the most extreme ideas and extreme individuals to share their thoughts, opinions and worldview.
Indeed, there are not many official conferences you can attend in order to meet Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Russian imperialists, Chinese spies, Corbyn-, Trump- and Assad supporters, African American separatists, Venezuelan socialists, neo-Nazis, fascists, and anti-Semites of every conceivable form and type.
Surely, there will be more to expect from this alliance and ever since the sanctions on them have been made public, we can expect them being busy spinning their webs, to expand and strengthen their defense against natural forces.
Author: Susanne Jameson