What do citizens of Japan, Pakistan, Switzerland, and Canada have in common?
The answer is that they, along with the citizens of all but one of the 198 member states of the United Nations, live under illegitimate governments.
Wow! And, which is the sole country with the only legitimate government on earth? According to one Ali-Akbar Meshkini the answer is simple: the only country with a legitimate government is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
According to Meshkini the only " bright spot" in the world is Iran which accounts for just under one per cent of the earth. The rest of humanity live in "utter darkness", under regimes that are both " oppressive and tyrannical" ( jaber and ja'er)
You might wonder who this Meshkini is and where he gets the authority to make such outlandish claims.
To his critics, Meshkini is a semi-literate mullah who was plodding along in Qom until the Khomeinist revolution brought the mullahs to power in Tehran in 1979.
To his admirers, Meshkini is an Ayatollah (Sign of God), and the all-powerful President of the Assembly of Experts, the organ which can select and, if need be, dismiss the Wali al-Faqih (The Clerical Custodian) also known as " The Supreme Guide", that is to say the man who rules the Islamic Republic with limitless powers.
Meshkini made his remarks at a meeting of the assembly last week- its first full session since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of the Islamic Republic last year.
Here is what Meshkini said: "Among all the governments in the world, the only legitimate government endorsed by the Almighty is the Islamic Republic of Iran."
To back his claim Meshkini said the Islamic Republic was the only regime blessed by God and the Fourteen Infallibles, that is to say the Prophet (PBUH), his daughter Fatimah, his son-in-law Ali and 11 of his direct male descendants who became imams.
Meshkini took his claims further.
He said: "The Islamic Republic is an extension of God, its Leader is appointed by God, its Revolutionary Guard is God's Army, and all its citizens are members of the Party of God (Hezbollah)."
As far as we could make out none of the 92 members of the Assembly of Experts took issue with Meshkini's outrageous remarks. And, the state-controlled media in Tehran reported them with a mixture of awe and deference.
According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the Assembly of Experts is the highest organ of state . This is because it chooses and can dismiss the man who exercises "Divine Power", including ordering a suspension of Islamic practices if deemed necessary.
The late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini often claimed that there had never been a legitimate government in Islam since the assassination of Ali Ibn Abi-Talib, until the advent of the Islamic Republic in Iran. But Khomeini never claimed that non-Muslim states were also illegitimate because they were not ruled by " Walayat al-Faqih". He admitted that, to cite one example, the Swiss had no idea what " Walayat al-Faqih" was about and , therefore, could not be expected to adopt it as their system of government. Also, Khomeini, although a fantasist in his own way, was not brazen enough to claim that his government was "an extension of God".
Meshkini, and mullahs like him, however, have no such scruples. Isolated in their cocoon and unaware of what is going on outside, they have persuaded themselves that they can attack and insult every nation under the sun with impunity.
Had Meshkini been a simple village mullah his bizarre remarks would have mattered little. But he is the second highest-ranking mullah of the regime after the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi.
What conclusions should the rest of the world draw from Meshkini's remarks, especially at a time that the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions are provoking an international crisis?
The first conclusion is that the Islamic Republic does not consider any other government on earth as equal in terms of legitimacy and divine endorsement. That, in turn, means that the Islamic Republic is under no obligation to respect the laws and obey the rules drawn by regimes that have always been and remain illegitimate. Indeed, the United Nations itself, an organ all but one of whose members are illegitimate, has no authority to demand any standards of behaviour from the only legitimate government since 7th century AD.
Translated into practical politics, the Meshkini Doctrine means that whatever agreement the Islamic Republic might reach with any or all of the illegitimate regimes on earth would be automatically invalid. It also means that the Islamic Republic as "an extension of God" has the mission to overthrow all other governments before uniting the whole of mankind under the rule of "Walayat al-Faqih". Once again, the Islamic Republic is returning to its original ambition of "exporting" the Khomeinist revolution- this time, in Khamenehi's words, as "a gift to mankind."
Some self-styled Western Khomeinologists might dismiss the statements by both Meshkini and Khamenehi as typical clerical hyperbole.
" Ah, they don't mean what they say," our Khomeinologists would say. "They are just talking for their domestic audiences."
The Khomeinologists might mean their analysis as a prop to get the mullahs off the hook. In reality, however, their analysis is an insult to mullahs like Meshkini and Khamenehi, because it presents them as men who speak with a forked tongue, which means that they cannot be trusted, or as politicians caught in the cobweb of their deception.
Logic, however, requires us to take Khamenehi and Meshkini seriously and assume that they mean what they say.
And that leads us to one crucial conclusion: as long as the Islamic Republic does not believe in the equality of all nation-states in the context of international law, regardless of race, religion, type of regime, size, and system, it can never be a sincere party to any bilateral or international agreement.
This is why, leaving aside commercial issues, negotiations between the Islamic Republic and other nations never produce concrete and lasting results. There cannot be give-and-take between "an extension of God" and an "illegitimate and oppressive regimes" that keep the whole of mankind, outside Iran of course, in "utter darkness."
It is important that those who recommend endless talks with the mullahs, including United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan who is visiting Tehran, keep that in mind.