by Abu Dharr (Guest Editorial, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1436)
In some parts of Iran there is an "American problem." The so-called "upper classes" of Iranian society are infatuated with everything American, and that infatuation trickles down to the ‘lower classes', who then either succumb to the American temptation or resist it. Fortunately for the Revolution, most of them resist it and the "American dream" remains the ambition of northern Tehranis who are far from the typical Iranian. However, the daydreamers have disproportionate influence because they have a lot of money. It is interesting to compare the pro-American tendencies in Iran (which alone among Muslim countries has managed to expel American influence and establish an Islamic government) with the anti-American feeling among the ordinary Muslims of other Muslim countries, where governments are staunchly anti-Islamic and pro-American, and there appears little prospect of the establishment of an Islamic government any time soon. The puppy love that some Iranians show for America can be seen in the typical consumer who looks for American products in the bazaar (or even in Dubai) and takes pride in having purchased an American-made item.
Then we have a generation of young people in high schools and colleges in Iran who are hooked on American fashions. They spend hours glued to the latest fashion shows via satellite reception and fashion magazines, and so have developed a western taste for clothes, cosmetics and appearances. And then we have the foolish and usually extravagant passion or love or admiration for the US among the children of many of the ulama. Yes, you read that right, the children of Iran's ulama; they, too, are not immune from this Americanitis. This is not a blanket statement, of course; there are also ulama in Islamic Iran with honorable families and revolutionary children. The point is that a wave of nostalgia for the US is part of public life in Iran; there is a furtive preference for things American. And when someone asks these Iranians: Do you really feel deep affection for America? They will almost immediately give the answer: we like the American people; we do not like the American government. We should ask these people: and does that mean you like the African Americans, the Latino Americans, the underclass Americans, and the minority Americans who pretty much resemble the oppressed people in your suburbs and countryside? From here on it becomes very difficult for these Iranians who are caught up in the American tide to swim through their undeveloped, insufficiently understood and analysed ,feelings about America.
The government of the US, most accurately characterized by Imam Khomeini (ra) as the shaytani buzurg of our time, has made deep inroads into the Iranian psychology. We do not say this to show how successful the US is; on the contrary, all of this is going to come back to haunt the US and its policy makers. We say this as a fair reading of reality and an impartial analysis of the facts on the ground. For almost a decade, the regime in Washington has been instructing and encouraging its officials and institutions to target the public mind in Iran. They have found ample assistance among the Iranian elites of the Shah's time who moved en masse to California and other parts of the US after the fall of their leader and the end of their privileged and parasitical existence in Iran. The result has been a proliferation of Persian-language satellite television stations beaming their pro-American and anti-Islamic propaganda into the Islamic Republic. Night and day, day in and day out, Iranians are confronted with nationalist Iranians, cultural Persians, secular academics and increasingly traditionalist and anti-Revolutionary Shi‘i ulama pushing their various anti-Revolutionary, and explicitly or effectively pro-American, message without intermission.
All of this is taking place despite an almost universal hatred of the US government, elites and policies among all the underclasses of the world, and particularly the Muslim ones. Those of our Iranian brothers who have been drifting away from their Islamic character should know that there is a "third world" underclass in the United States, which shares the contempt for the US establishment felt by other ordinary people around the world. The pictures of the impact of Hurricane Katrina should have corrected the rosy image that some simple-minded foreigners, Iranians included, have of America, and replaced it with a more accurate image of an elitist, racist and classist America that does not even care for the poor and needy among its own people, let alone anywhere else in the world.
Thus far it is possible to understand the tug-of-war between propaganda and people. What is more and more difficult to understand is the passive acceptance that the regime in Washington has secured from the Islamic establishment in Iran. There is a marked difference between the image of America during Imam Khomeini's time and the image of America in Iran today. In Iraq, the US regime is making preparations to try Saddam Husein in a kangaroo court. The tyrant and war-criminal will be put on trial, accused of some domestic killings, and then executed. The whole story of his service to the US in launching his war of aggression against the Islamic state of Iran 25 years ago will be buried with him, if the American government has its way. That war, for those who have Hollywood-type short-term memories, cost the Muslims of Iran and Iraq more than a million casualties, and inflicted immense and continuing suffering on millions of others maimed, handicapped and disabled. If there was any justice, Saddam Husein should be put on trial, with due process of law, for each and every one of his crimes, so that the pro-Americans from Najaf to Karbala, and from Qum to Qazvin, can understand what the US is really all about. On this issue, however, there is a resounding silence from the diplomatic corps of the Islamic Republic. This is an insult and denigration of the shuhada'.
The other issue is the American-sponsored rule of what we are told is to be a future democratic Iraq. Already, Iraq is becoming reminiscent of Lebanon during the Kissinger-inspired and US-sponsored civil war of the 1970s and 1980s. This Iraq is already oozing with sectarianism and foaming with nationalism. The American plan to dismember Iraq can be discerned in that the US and western media refer to the components of the Iraqi people: the Sunni Arabs, the Shi‘is, and the Kurds. Well, are not the Shi‘is Arabs? And are not the Kurds Sunnis? But woe to any eye that can see through the American scheme. Why are the "Sunni Arabs" described by two words and the other two segments of the Iraqi population described by only one each? And would it not be an advantage for Sunni Arabs to bridge the gap between Sunni Kurds, who have no relationship to Shi‘i Arabs? The "Sunni Arabs" are Sunnis like the Kurds and they are Arabs like the Shi‘is. Therefore, in the absence of any sectarian master-plan, the Sunni Arabs should be the middle ground, the common denominator, and hold the balance of power in today's Iraq. But the politics of today's Iraq is dominated by the agendas of the Washington regime, with all the malevolence and manipulative skills and experiences of the notorious Henry Kissinger. Thus, sectarian strife is already clearly emerging in an American-destabilized Iraq.
Saddam Husein and his henchmen were roundly condemned because they were serving American agendas, because they were carrying out American orders. For that they deserve to be known as traitors in the history of the Ummah. On precisely the same basis, we must also condemn Iraq's current government, with its many officials coming and going, for all they have done is replace the Ba'athist regime with their own type of secondhand and subservient government to the master in the White House. Saddam Hussein is no more a Sunni than the Shah of Iran was a Shi‘i; and the current hodge-podge of Iraqi rulers, both Sunnis and Shi‘is, are no more Sunni or Shi‘i than either Saddam and the late Pahlavi.
It will take a de-Americanized populace in both Iran and Iraq to realize that satellite-beamed TV programmes and satellite-launched missiles are serving the same purpose: to establish American hegemony and neo-imperialism over two crucial countries in the heart of the Muslim world, to ensure a secure supply of oil for their capitalist elites and security for the cancerous state of zionism implanted in the heart of the Arab-Islamic world in Tel Aviv. It may be asking too much to expect the Iranian man of the street to understand this and resist this agenda; but it is the least we should expect from the authorities of the Islamic State that they understand these dangers, counter them in their policies, and do everything possible to expose them to the Iranians being fed a diet of Western cultural poison.
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.