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What The Iranian Opposition Knows -- And The West Needs To Learn

Jun 22, 2009
As I write these words, demonstrations and other events in Iran are unfolding by the hour, indeed by the minute.

Time and again, Mir Hussein Moussavi and other opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stress the importance of not pausing, much less stopping and waiting. Do they know something about how things work in Iran which the West needs to learn?

Ancient history provides a case that could not be more immediate:

In the year 363, the Roman Army under the valiant Emperor Julian marched on Persia (Iran). Julian was killed in battle, and was replaced by Jovian. Edward Gibbon ("The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire," Chapter XXIV) tells what happened next.

The Persian Emperor Shapur II

"observed, with serious concern, that in the repetition of doubtful combats, he had lost his most faithful and intrepid nobles, his bravest troops, and the great part of his train of elephants: and the experienced monarch feared to provoke the resistance of despair, the vicissitudes of fortune, and the unexhausted powers of the Roman empire; which might soon advance to relieve, or to revenge, the successor of Julian.

The Surenas himself, accompanied by another satrap, appeared in the camp of Jovian; and declared, that the clemency of his sovereign was not averse to signify the conditions, on which he would consent to spare and to dismiss [Jovian], with the relics of his captive army. The hopes of safety subdued the firmness of the Romans; the emperor was compelled, by the advice of his council, and the cries of the soldiers, to embrace the offer of peace...

The crafty Persian delayed, under various pretences, the conclusion of the agreement; started difficulties, required explanations, suggested expedients, receded from his concessions, increased his demands, and wasted four days in the arts of negotiation, till he had consumed the stock of provisions which yet remained in the camp of the Romans.

Had Jovian been capable of executing a bold and prudent measure, he would have continued his march with unremitting diligence;...he might have safely reached the fruitful province of Corduene, at the distance only of one hundred miles. The irresolute emperor, instead of breaking through the toils of the enemy, expected his fate with patient resignation; and accepted the humiliating conditions of peace, which it was no longer in his power to refuse."

The humiliating peace treaty imposed on the Romans by Shapur's playing for time was extremely humiliating:

"The messengers of Jovian promulgated the specious tale of a prudent and necessary peace: the voice of fame, louder and more sincere, revealed the disgrace of the emperor, and the conditions of the ignominious treaty.

The minds of the people were filled with astonishment and grief, with indignation and terror, when they were informed, that the unworthy successor of Julian relinquished the five provinces, which had been acquired by the victory of Galerius; and that he shamefully surrendered to the Barbarians the important city of Nisibis, the firmest bulwark of the provinces of the East."

Tragically for Rome, the affair proved to be no isolated incident. Shapur II

"enjoyed the glory and the fruits of his victory; and this ignominious peace has justly been considered as a memorable era in the decline and fall of the Roman empire.

The predecessors of Jovian had sometimes relinquished the dominion of distant and unprofitable provinces: but, since the foundation of the city, the genius of Rome, the god Terminus, who guarded the boundaries of the republic, had never retired before the sword of a victorious enemy."

Sun Tzu ("The Art of War") and Machiavelli, Carl Von Clausewitz ("On War") and Frederick The Great are just a few of the thinkers and generals from around the world and across recorded history who made valuable insights and observations about how to counter Shapur-styled stalling.

But if all the answers could be found, then sifted, what might remain is the advice offered between rounds by boxing trainers with sixth grade educations to their fighters:

"Don't wait on him. Get off first."
About the Author
Thomas Belvedere is the pseudonym of a political consultant to senators, representatives, governors, and the media. He worked for all levels of government, and for all three branches. An accredited expert witness in federal court, he has a Ph.D. in political science.

He authored "The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion" atBooklocker, Amazon , andBarnes and Noble.
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