An Omnipotent Agent is None-Existent

“Kar, kare Englisihast”: A very famous Persian statement in Iranian politics. It can be translated into ‘the British are behind everything important in the political scene of Iran.’ Due to the enormous power of the British Empire in modern Iranian politics, the idea of an Omnipotent Agent was planted in the minds of the Iranian elite and public. As a consequence of this, a sense of constant conspiracy developed in the mind of Iranians.[1] In this approach, there are constant conspiracies in all the country’s affairs. Once a significant episode happens in the country directly or indirectly people, elite or public, seek for the role of the British government in the event, and more recently the role of the US government. While Iranian people, elites or public, are aware of this exaggerated sense of conspiracy, they do believe it is a matter-of-fact approach toward politics in Iran.[2] At the core of this belief, the British government is considered as an ‘omnipotent agent’ who has had the ability to keep the state of affairs in its interests throughout modern Iran. It was one of the main reasons, therefore, that led Iranians to develop an attitude that politics is the field of total agreement, a field in which an Omnipotent Agent acts.

Against the Iranian understanding, politics is the field of conflicts of interests, whether among individuals, groups, or countries. It is impossible to find a total agreement on a subject among the actors, either in national or international politics. The idea of the constant conspiracy of a world power, and its ability to handle everything the way it wants, has led Iranians to think about politics as a field in the hand of a few actors who are able to come into complete agreement without any disagreement. They act as though one agent. There is no tension. If sometimes we can see something like a tension, it is to keep people’s minds busy with something fake. In fact, these unreal tensions are part of the plan.

The best case to explain this conspiracy theory based on the role of a very powerful world agent is the 1979 Iranian Revolution. According to all the documents, the revolution was one done by Iranian people. There are many Iranians, however, who do believe that the Islamic Revolution was an episode of the British government’s policies in Iran. They consider Khomeini as a British agent who did what had been planned by the British government.[3] It means an event as gigantic as the Iranian Revolution was planned by a single government. The implication is that there was no conflict among the British and other countries with critical interests in Iran at the time. This approach sees world politics as well as Iranian politics a unified scene of action in which all the actors are playing a scenario written for them by a single writer. It neglects the constant conflicts among the actors in terms of interests in the world of politics. The concept of conflicts of interests is absolutely absent from their interpretations of the events in their country.

This approach has affected the understanding of the political affairs in Iran too. Talking with Iranians, on the streets or at universities, not only do not they believe in any real tension in international relations, they rarely believe that there is any important tension between the rulers of their country. They believe the politicians in their country act like one body and in concert. If there is any tension visible, it is just to deceive people to keep their minds busy, to distract their attention from the main issues in Iran. In many examples, we can track this approach towards the political affairs in Iranian politics. A good example is election campaigns in Iran. In order to bring people to ballot polls, many people believe, the regime tries to show that different candidates with different ideas are participating in the election; the regime wants people to believe that voting for one candidate against another can affect the political scene of the country. This is while there is no disagreement among the candidates and all are brought to vote by the main agent who is in control of everything.

The main consequence of the conspiracy theory is to become submissive. Once people think there is an agent and nothing can escape his power, they do not venture to act against it. While Iranians are thinking that the affairs of their country are being controlled by a body of people who are acting in concert without any conflict among them, they will hardly venture to do anything to change the system. For instance, if there is a conflict among some groups or individuals in the system which provides a good opportunity for the opposition to utilize it as a way to weaken the regime, interpreting the conflict as a fake one prevents them from acting effectively. They cannot believe that a regime as big as the Islamic republic can have so many conflicts from inside due to its different interest groups. For instance, in the tension between the parliament and the president, which is a real one, the opposition groups mostly consider it unreal. Any tension is an opportunity for the opposition to weaken the current regime in Iran. Losing these opportunities is due to an approach towards politics which makes the actors submissive.

The other consequence of this approach is its utilization by politicians. While this approach is common among Iranians, inside or outside of the country, politicians are able to organize their policies to take advantage of this approach. The best example of this is the way that the Islamic regime has been able to relate all the failings of its policies in terms of economy, security, and politics to that agent.[4] Wherever and whenever there is a problem, that Omnipotent Agent is behind it. Utilization of this policy by the current regime in Iran repeatedly demonstrates its efficiency.

Conspiracy theory is based on a misunderstanding of the field of politics. Unlike the Iranian understanding, politics is the world of possibilities, uncertainties, constant conflicts and negotiations for power distribution and economic interests. Scarcity of power brings conflicts and makes a total agreement among actors impossible. An Omnipotent agent in control of everything is nonexistent.

[1] Due to the colonial role of some of the European powers, especially the British Empire, this sense of conspiracy has developed in all the Middle Eastern countries. They attribute things out of their control or things they dislike to the acts of foreign agents who are controlling everything: their economy, their government, and their life.

[2] A very well known TV show, Dai Jan Napelon, was shot and screened in Iran. The main idea of the show was to ridicule the idea of a constant conspiracy of the British government in Iranian politics.

[3] Sometimes we can see that the British agent is replaced by American one. By the end of the Second World War when the US imposed itself as the superpower of the world, the role of the British in Iranian minds has mainly been played by Americans.

[4] Sometimes, it seems that some of the Iranian politicians really do believe in this conspiracy theory.