by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 9, Ramadan, 1437)
Last month’s student protests in Tehran have once again demonstrated the West’s animosity to Islam and the Islamic Republic. Despite the miniscule size of the protest group–a few hundred at most–it was immediately projected in the Western media and by American officials as reflecting the "unpopularity" of the Islamic government. The students were protesting against the proposed policy of privatising universities in Iran. Rallies held by tens of thousands of people in support of Iran’s Islamic government or against US policies are seldom reported in the same "freedom-loving" western media; similarly, when tens of thousands, indeed millions, filled the streets of Washington DC, San Francisco and New York against the US war on Iraq, this was presented as the working of ‘democracy’, but the US government was not deterred from attacking Iraq.
Even the excuse advanced to attack Iraq–that it possessed WMDs–has turned out to be completely untrue. Yet Bush has not resigned, nor does he intend to; there are also no demands for a complete change in the American political system. In the case of Iran, however, the US and its media expect the Islamic government to give in to every demand made by protesters.
It would be helpful to understand what is happening in Iran. A few hundred students protested against the government’s proposeal to privatise Iran’s universities. There is nothing wrong with the proposal, nor with the protests held against it, but, as education minister Mostafa Moein asked, why hold protests after midnight? Universities in much of the world, including the West, are run privately. In Islamic Iran the government has subsidised education so far, at heavy cost to the treasury. If it decides to privatise, then that is the government’s prerogative; students are, of course, free to oppose the move and offer their point of view, but peacefully. Most students have done precisely that. The protests, however, have been hijacked by western-backed opportunists whose real masters are in the US and France, whose agenda and priorities are quite different from those of Iran’s students.
Who are these distant manipulators? Iranians in the US are mostly aligned with Reza Pahlavi, the late ex-Shah’s son, who harbours the illusion that he may one day be able to return to the peacock throne. He is backed by the zionist cabal that has made no secret of its hatred of Islam and Muslims. The US-based cabal operates only to protect and advance the interests of Israel; for the late ex-Shah’s son to join hands with these anti-Muslim thugs shows his desperation. It is not surprising that he is shown on such American networks as CNN, Fox News and so on, when the people of Iran neither know who he is, nor care for him or his father. In fact, the more Reza Pahlavi appears in the company of the zionists, the more the people of Iran will despise him. It also shows what a dunce he is, as the US refused to grant his father political asylum after he was driven from power. His father was a faithful stooge of the US for more than 25 years, yet that counted for nothing.
Another group behind the students’ protest is the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), better known as the munafiqeen. Given sanctuary in Iraq in Saddam’s time, these terrorists have also been allowed to operate in US-occupied Iraq because they are regarded as a possible advance army in any attack against the Islamic Republic. The MKO has a record of murders, sabotage and other crimes against the Islamic Republic. It has offices in several western capitals.
On June 18 its Paris offices were raided by the French security service; some US$9 million in cash (in $100 bills), satellite-dishes and transmitters were recovered. Where did the terrorists get such large sums from? Hundreds of their members, including Maryam Rajavi, their self-styled leader, were arrested. Most have since been released, but Rajavi remains in custody. It is clear that they planned to carry out attacks against Iranian embassies and cultural centers in western capitals.
In 1989 MKO terrorists invaded Iran’s embassy in Ottawa and attacked ambassador Lavasani, who survived but suffered multiple fractures of his arms. The MKO even video-filmed the attack, yet a Canadian court declared the assailants "not guilty". It is also pertinent to recall that Canadian intelligence agents who had the embassy under surveillance did nothing to prevent the assault on a diplomatic mission.
After her arrest in Paris, Maryam Rajavi’s supporters not only protested but several set themselves on fire. One MKO supporter died of burns in a Paris hospital; others were rescued in time. Not one western journalist has described this kind of behaviour as suicide or suicidal; such epithets are reserved for the supporters of the struggle for Palestine.
The US government has made no secret of its support for groups opposing the Islamic Republic; US president George Bush has publicly backed the Iranian protesters in a clear violation of diplomatic norms. This interference in Iran’s internal affairs is crude, but the president of the self-styled "sole superpower" is not constrained by diplomatic niceties. The US has also unleashed a barrage of propaganda against the Islamic Republic, such as accusing it of manufacturing nuclear weapons. Given the US’s sorry record of allegations against Iraq, any pronouncement must be treated with great caution.
Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has met all its obligations, unlike Israel. Washington is exerting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to force Iran to agree to additional unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iranian officials should be cautious about such demands; the West’s own record on such treaties is abysmal. Why should Iran submit to demands not made on others? Besides, Tehran has made it clear that its nuclear programme is meant for power generation; it should be believed. Throughout the eighties, when Saddam’s forces were using chemical weapons and nerve gases on Iranian troops, the West turned a blind eye. Iran’s appeals for investigation went unheeded because Saddam was doing the West’s dirty work at the time. Saddam’s crimes were trotted out only after he had outlived his usefulness. So there is no need for Islamic Iran to take the West’s professed concern about nuclear (or any other) weapons at face value.
The US’s aim is clear: having failed to undermine the Islamic Republic by invasion and economic sanctions, it has now resorted to internal sabotage. In addition to expressing "support" for student protesters–a kiss of death in much of the Muslim world–the US is also financing a vicious propaganda campaign from abroad. Radio and television-programmes beamed from Los Angeles are aimed at undermining the Islamic Republic. Parallel to this runs an assault on the concept of the Velayat-e Faqih. It is projected as "undemocratic," or that the people of Iran, the majority of whom are Shi’ah, do not believe in it. Uncle Sam is in no position to make pronouncements about Islam’s concepts. Let it be stated for the record that, immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, a referendum was held (April 1979) in which Iran’s people endorsed the establishment of the Islamic Republic overwhelmingly. The Constitution was similarly put to a vote and ratified by the people: that constitution enshrines the concept of the Velayet-e Faqih.
Neither the constitution nor the conceptual bases of governance can be referred to the people every time someone disagrees with the government about something. Unlike most of the US’s allies in the Muslim world, Iran is governed by a constitution and the rule of law. The US itself cannot match this degree of adherence to the rule of law; the tiny minority called the neo-cons who have usurped power in Washington represent nobody except themselves. Bush stole the presidency by a legal sleight-of-hand; it is not the function of US courts, not even the supreme court, to make such pronouncements. There is a real deficit of democratic practice in the US, not in Iran.
In Iran, however, American pronouncements are having exactly the opposite effect to their intended one; the more Washington expresses support for demonstrators, no matter how genuine their demands or grievances, the less the people of Iran sympathise with them. Like Muslim peoples everywhere, Iranians, barring a tiny minority, hate the US government and its policies. For good reason: Uncle Sam has extremely bad manners, and he is a bully. Nobody likes bullies.
Two other issues need attention. First, there appear to be problems in Iranian universities. There are too many secularist tendencies being advocated, especially by professors trained in the ‘humanities’ in western universities. They have produced young Iranis who are alienated from Islamic values; this has created serious problems for the Islamic Republic. It is strange to note that, instead of producing creative minds that can serve the interests of Islam and Muslims, Iran’s universities are producing students who ape western values. It is even more astonishing because, in much of the rest of the world, people are seeing through the hollow pronouncements of the US (and the West in general), yet some people in Iran’s universities seem to walk around with blinkers over their eyes.
The US is not a role-model for anyone; not only does it have the highest prison population in the world (more than 2 million, out of a population of less than 300 million), but since September 2001 US law-enforcement agencies have been given carte blanche to arrest on suspicion. Thousands are held in US jails because of this new policy. Attorney general John Ashcroft has given instructions to the US coastguard to arrest and jail all asylum seekers, not because they are suspected of wrongdoing but because it would "free them" (ie. the coastguard) to go after the "terrorists".
America’s warmongering has another, more sinister purpose as well. Economically, the US has been reduced to a basket-case. Many American economists have warned of impending economic meltdown. On June 18 it was announced that in the first quarter of 2003 the US trade deficit was US$136 billion. Large as this figure is, it pales into insignificance when compared with the projected deficit of $43 trillion expected if current policies are not reversed. Given these doomsday economic scenarios, the cowboys in Washington are busy screaming about the sky falling on their heads. They want to keep the American public distracted by irrelevant issues, such as "terrorist threats", each time someone raises questions about the economy. Paranoia has become a substitute for sound economic and political policies, yet there is no light at the end of the economic tunnel in the foreseeable future.
Crying wolf about far-off countries can deflect attention from problems at home, but this tactic cannot go on working for ever. As the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, aptly put it: the US is a "mountain of melting ice." The world can hardly wait to see it melt away completely.