by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 11, Muharram, 1431)
It was the late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson who had quipped: “a week is a long time in politics.” That may be true of politics that are fickle by nature; political systems last much longer. In this sense, 31 years cannot be considered too long given that some systems have existed for centuries. So what is special about Iran’sIslamic Revolution that turns 31 this month?
The question can only be properly addressed in the context of how the Islamic Revolution occurred and what it signalled for the prevailing dominant global order. Despite much hype about national independence movements in the early part of the last century that culminated in the emergence of scores of new states on the world map, their independence was fraudulent. The regimes that emerged from the bowels of colonialism were as much a part of the colonial system as they were during direct colonialism imposed from Europe. Only the rulers’ faces changed: from white men lording over brown/dark skinned people to brown/dark skinned men taking over from white masters. For the overwhelming majority of masses in Asia and Africa, it was business as usual.
The present political architecture of the world was cobbled together by the victors of the Second World War. They declared that they have a right to determine how the rest of the world should be governed. It is a continuation of colonialism that had existed for at least 200 years. At the end of the Second World War — it is a misnomer to call it a “world war” since the entire world was not at war, only the Europeans and later joined by the US, were at each other’s throats — the exploitative system was formalised through such instruments as the United Nations and the Security Council, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. All these were aliases for the predatory powers led by the US. The world was also divided into spheres of influence between the Soviet Union and the US ensuring no country was allowed to break free from either power’s area of influence. If any dared, the predatory power’s tanks, ships, troops and planes were always ready to bring it back into line.
Iran’s unique achievement is that its movement for freedom was beholden to neither superpower. It was led by a muttaqi ‘alim, Imam Khomeini, whose understanding and learning of the global situation was rooted in the values and teachings of Islam. He did not look or behave like any of the other leaders of so-called independence movements whether Ahmed Soekarno of Indonesia or Jamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt or a host of others. Imam Khomeini also did not lead a “national” movement; he led an Islamic movement that wanted nothing less than the total dismantling of the colonial imposed order in Iran. Had Iran conducted itself like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, for instance, the West would not have unleashed its vicious propaganda and war against the Islamic State. Even before the revolution had succeeded in overthrowing the Western-backed regime of the Shah, malicious propaganda of wilful distortions and lies was being spread.
Immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, a campaign of assassinations of leading figures of the revolution was launched. It was perpetrated through the West’s agents such as the munafiqeen that go by the inappropriate title, the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), and Western-backed opportunists represented by such figures as Abul Hassan Bani Sadr and Sadeq Qutbzadeh, among others. More than 1,200 leading figures of the revolution became victim of their criminal acts. Among those martyred in the early days were such leading figures as Ayatullah Moffateh, Ayatullah Mutahhari, Chief Justice Ayatullah Beheshti, President Muhammad Ali Rajaei and Prime Minister Muhammad Bahonar. Any other state would have collapsed; the Islamic State led by the Imam stood firm because he had unshakable faith in Allah (Â) and enjoyed the support of the masses.
While Iran was still in the throes of the revolution, an external invasion from Iraq was launched. Saddam Husain was only a front for a coalition of international outlaws: the US, Britain, France, Germany and the entire crop of illegitimate Arabian regimes minus Syria. The Iraqi-led war was supposed to cripple Iran and bring it to its knees. Bani Sadr, who was president at the time, wanted to surrender after two weeks. It was the Imam’s courage that dismissed all talk of defeatism. Bani Sadr soon fled the country to save his skin but Iran went on to wage a valiant struggle for eight years in defence of the revolution. And it did it all alone. At the end of the war, it had incurred no debt, unlike Britain that had accumulated $55 billion in debt at the end of the Second World War that had lasted a mere five years. The US today has a debt of $11 trillion because of the two wars it is waging in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Islamic State has also been subjected to sanctions. These have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Without any outside help, Iranian scientists and engineers have made remarkable progress in the nuclear and other scientific fields defying all Western predictions of its imminent collapse. While Iran’s progress in the technical arena is impressive, it is vulnerable in some sectors. One is culture. The West, especially the US, beams its hedonistic propaganda through satellite channels it funds. The other is the media war against Iran. While Tehran has invested in its own global channels, they are still weak. This can be overcome if Iran works in cooperation with like-minded organizations to get its message across and overcome the vicious propaganda of the West.
It is interesting to note that despite all the attempts at undermining Iran, US policymakers are still not sure how the system works there. This was confirmed by a Rand paper released last month titled Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads: An Exploration of Iranian Leadership Dynamics. While referring to the “serious challenges” the Islamic Republic of Iran poses “to US interests in the Middle East”, the paper goes on to admit: “Yet the US ability to ‘read’ the regime in Tehran and formulate appropriate policies has been handicapped by the lack of access to Iran experienced by US diplomats and other citizens and by what many observers lament as the opacity of Iranian decision-making processes.” The paper was funded by the US Department of Defense and conducted within the Intelligence Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.
Only an Islamic State shielded from predatory powers can force its enemies to admit their own weaknesses.