In April 2001, Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie was among the guests of honor at the Prague Writers’ Festival. Having only recently come out of years of hiding, Rushdie was clearly frustrated with the massive security detail that followed him everywhere.
“To be here and to find a large security operation around me has actually felt a little embarrassing,” he told the reporters. “I spent a great deal of time before I came here saying that I really didn’t want that.”
It was a sentiment he often repeated in the years to come, saying “things are fine now” in 2019, and just a month ago telling a German magazine he had a “mostly normal” life. With Rushdie having celebrated his 75th birthday in June, the 1989 fatwa of the long-deceased Ayatollah Khomeini seemed to belong firmly in the past.
And so there was very little security last Friday at an event with Rushdie in the small town of Chautauqua in New York state, allowing Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old American of Lebanese descent, whose social media and phone is filled with pro-Iran content, to rush onto the stage and stab Rushdie repeatedly.
Whether Matar was acting on his own or with direction from Tehran is now the big question. The question, however, can be misleading. The Iranian regime utilizes a wide range of contacts, operators and middlemen. A typical Iran-backed attack might not start with a detailed plan in Tehran but can initiate from a mid- or even low-level operative in one of the many affiliates of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — be it Hezbollah, the jewel in the crown of Iran’s Axis of Resistance, or one of the lesser groups — who has happened to stumble upon the right opportunity. Initial reports, by VICE News citing intelligence sources, have claimed that Matar was in touch with IRGC operatives. What is already clear, regardless of the details that will surface in the months to come, is that the Iranian regime is as implicated now as it was in 1989 when the fatwa was issued.
Ever since the fatwa was issued 33 years ago, the regime has consistently campaigned for Rushdie’s murder. The persistence of this bizarre quest for the murder of a novelist helps us understand key facts about this regime. [Continue reading…]