by Kevin Barrett (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 12, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1443)
On 22 Bahman (11 February) 1979, Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, hitherto forced to live in exile, returned to Iran to guide the triumphant Islamic Revolution and found the world’s first Islamic republic in contemporary history. When it became clear that Imam Khomeini was serious about forging a modern, forward-looking Islamic society that would radically break with Western political philosophy and its imperial world order, Western observers—their arrogance tempered by barely-concealed panic—predicted that the Islamic Republic would be a short-lived experiment. They quickly set about trying to ensure that their doomsaying would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Imperial geo-strategists first proposed to “strangle the revolutionary baby in its cradle” by goading Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to invade Iran. On September 22, 1980, Iraq launched a full-scale invasion of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the aim of permanently occupying Iranian territory, especially the eastern bank of the Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab) and the oil-rich province of Khuzestan. A successful Iraqi occupation and incorporation of Iranian territory, the thinking went, would discredit the Islamic government and lead to its overthrow.
The “Imposed War” (so-called because it was imposed on the region by Western powers) aimed at quickly defeating and discrediting Iran. But the imposers had not taken into consideration the religious elan of Iranians, who were far more willing to lay down their lives than West-supported secularist Iraqis were. Thanks to high morale and the Qur’anic injunction to sacrifice in a just cause, Iran more than made up for its disadvantages in money and weapons, and would have defeated Iraq and taken Baghdad if the West had not repeatedly stepped in to prevent that much-dreaded outcome.
As it became evident that the Imposed War would serve to consolidate Iran’s Islamic Republic instead of overthrowing it, the West shifted to a policy of containment modeled after George Kennan’s famous post-World War II strategy for limiting the spread of Communism. By strangling Iran’s economy and hobbling its development through sanctions and sabotage, while shoring up Western puppet regimes in the region, imperial strategists hoped to prevent Islamic Revolutionary ideology and practice from spreading to other countries. If they could permanently stifle Iran’s economy and technology, the imperialists hoped, not only would the Islamic Republic fail as a model for other peoples, but the Iranians would soon decide to put an end to their revolutionary experiment.
The architects of containment did succeed, to a certain extent, in slowing the spread of Islamic Revolutionary ideology as an international model. But they did so through coercion—including what can only be called terrorism. In Morocco, for example, the leadership of the Islamic movement Al Adl Wal Ihsanne has historically respected and desired to at least partially emulate the Islamic Republican template. But as the group’s leaders Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine and his daughter and successor Nadia have repeatedly explained, the Algerian experience in the 1990s, during which West-supported government death squads (often disguised as “Islamists”) murdered more than a million people to prevent an Islamic revolution via the ballot box, showed that the West will shed unlimited amounts of innocent blood to stop the spread of Islamic Republicanism. To avoid such a bloodbath, Al Adl Wal Ihsanne has backed away from pushing Morocco to follow Iran down the path toward Islamic governance and independence from Western neo-imperial occupation. Similar situations pertain in many other Muslim-majority countries.
But the Western containment strategy failed to stop the emergence of an Axis of Resistance dedicated to expelling the Anglo-Zionist Empire from the Muslim East. Today, that Axis is getting ever-stronger in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, while the Empire—defeated in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Yemen—grows weaker. Sooner or later, the inevitable withdrawal of imperial forces from West Asia will clear the way for regional countries to achieve genuine independence and Islamic governance.
When that day arrives, sooner rather than later in sha Allah, the Islamic Republic of Iran will live on, despite the best efforts of the Western saboteurs and terrorists to kill it. Indeed, it will be thriving as it emerges from the harshest sanctions ever imposed on any country over the course of more than four decades. Islamic Iran has stunned and dismayed the doomsayers and sanctions-slappers by continuing to progress economically and technologically, while rapidly rising on the human development index, despite the inveterate opposition of the most powerful empire in history.
Iran’s progress in science and technology since 1979 has shocked Western observers, many of whom falsely imagined that an Islamically-based society would be run by obscurantists. In reality, Iran’s religious establishment, trained in a formidable system of seminaries, may be the most highly-educated group of national “Platonic guardians” in the world. In fact, Islamic Iran may be the only country left on earth ruled by people who revere classical education! So, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Iran’s university system has prospered since 1979, that educational levels (especially among women) have risen sharply, and that Iranian scientists and engineers have repeatedly achieved breakthroughs enabling their country to forge ahead economically and technologically despite the never-ending regime of draconian sanctions.
Among developing countries, Iran ranks near the top in terms of its Human Development Index (HDI). According to the United Nations Human Development Program, Iran’s HDI grew nearly 40% during the three decades since 1990—one of the best records of any country, and a near-miracle given the brutal sanctions. During that period, life expectancy rose more than 12 years, years of schooling by six years, and per capita income by 60%. Clearly the Western attempt to crush the morale of the Iranian people by condemning them to extreme poverty and backwardness has failed utterly.
Iranian medicine has contributed to the sharp rise in life expectancy. Iran revolutionized its health care system during the 1990s and succeeded in providing affordable health care to more than 90% of its rural population. Western sanctions, though responsible for much death and suffering, inadvertently forced Iran to learn to produce the vast majority of its own medical supplies, not only saving an estimated $750 million per year, but also making itself a major competitor on the world market. Today, Iran manufactures more than 97% of its own drugs and has become a leader in medical biotechnology.
Across many fields, Iranian science has reached globally competitive levels. Examples include space and aviation, chemistry, computer science, biotechnology and medical science, physics and materials science, nuclear science, and nanotechnology. Amazingly, given the draconian sanctions, the US National Science Foundation has, in recent years, ranked Iran first globally in scientific and technological growth.
According to The Times Higher Education, Iran’s science and technology output grew 340,000 percent from 1970 to 2008 to account for over 1% of the world’s total output, putting Iran far ahead of all developing countries except China, India, and Brazil. Since 2008 Iran’s growth in science and technology production has continued at an impressive rate of between 10% and 25% per year according to various metrics (far ahead of world averages) with its nuclear sciences sector advancing by a stunning 8400% compared to the world rate of 34%.
Some of Iran’s biggest breakthroughs have come in rocketry and space science. Thanks to the Iranian Space Agency ISA the Islamic Republic of Iran became one of the world’s 11 orbital-launch-capable countries in 2009. Today, the expendable satellite launch vehicle (SLV) Zuljanah is taking payloads of 200 kg into a 500 km orbit, while close behind it the forthcoming Souroush SLV will soon be taking payloads of 8-15 tons into space.
By developing an independent capability in rocketry and space science, Iran has bolstered its ability to deter foreign aggression. The Iranian military, despite its relatively low expenditures, has managed to assemble an impressive array of defensive rockets that could inflict unacceptable levels of damage on Israeli military installations and cities and/or US ships and bases in the region if the Anglo-Zionist Empire ever followed through on its endless threats to launch a major attack on Iran. Thanks to the work of Iranian scientists and strategists, Iran has achieved a defensive stalemate despite spending only a tiny fraction of the money the Empire lavishes on its aggression-addled military.
The Islamic Republic’s progress in the above fields, and many more, gives the lie to Islamophobic propaganda equating secularism with knowledge and religion with ignorance. When future historians look back at the seemingly surprising successes of the Islamic Republic since its birth in 1979, they may do so from a new philosophical perspective that acknowledges religion as a source and stimulant of knowledge, rather than as an atavistic relic of an obscurantist European past.