There is little dispute on objectively what JM did during 1949 to the present, including 1977-1981. JM is an above-ground, open, organization. JM has regularly published its positions. However, there is great debate on evaluation of whether this or that JM policy was positive or negative. In normative judgments (as we say in political science) where one stands depends on where one sits. I do not think that one can use logical arguments and evidence to change the minds of extremist monarchists and fundamentalists.
There are many who are genuinely interested in learning and debating about the roles of various parties. Such people are the audience of my essay. In making accurate judgments in history, we have to keep two things in mind: avoid presentism, and think through the “counterfactuals.”
Presentism is evaluating or judging the past based on what is KNOWN today and was NOT KNOWN when the events occurred. It is a very common mistake by those who are newbies and non-experts on a subject. Presentism is also used by charlatans to manipulate the simpletons. Many cultures have wise expressions warning the people against such mistakes. In Persian, we have the expression: “moama chon hal shavad, asan shavad” [after the riddle has been solved, the solution appears simple]. The Americans have a saying: “Monday morning quarterbacking.” Which refers to people who condemn the decisions made by the American football players on what they should have done instead of what they actually did during the plays during the weekend.
To make objective evaluations of what occurred in the past, we have to discuss what was actually known at that time, what was not known at that time, what were the various options, and given these, were the decisions optimal GIVEN the known and unknown.
Moreover, we have to know the level of power each player had at a particular juncture. Power is relative and fluctuates. The capability or ability to do a particular task depends on a variety of factors. For example, for those who have played basketball, it is very very easy to make the basket (throw the ball through the hoop) while you are in the paint (the area adjacent to the basket of the opponent). The farther you are from the hoop, the harder it is to make the basket. You would get 2 points if you make the basket from the paint, but if you make the basket from outside the paint, you will get 3 points. Most NBA players could probably make the 3 point shots if they are few feet from the paint. Virtually, no one, (not even Lebron James) could make the basket from one’s own side of the court. And if you are standing in your own paint area, the likelihood of making the basket is something like one in a million. In sum, the ability to accomplish a goal (making the basket) depends on the objective position that you have been placed. If you are in the paint, it would be very very easy to accomplish you goal, whereas the likelihood of making the basket greatly decreases if you are well outside the paint. So, if someone refuses to give you the ball while you are in the paint, and then refuses to give you the ball while you are in the 3-point area but within reasonable range, but in desperation gives you the basketball while you are in your own court close to you own paint, and tells you to make the basket from there, you could legitimately tell them that is not going to happen. If then, they blame you for failing to accomplish the task, it shows that they are either morons or charlatans. The fault resides totally with the person who refused to give you the basketball when you could reasonably make the basket. They could NOT fairly and logically blame you for not taking the shot while you are in your own court in your own paint.
One may use the counterfactual method of guessing what alternative histories might have happened. Because there is no real way to know how things would have actually happened, then one may use counterfactuals as a heuristic device to help illuminate the “what ifs of history.”
heuristic device Any procedure which involves the use of an artificial construct to assist in the exploration of social phenomena. It usually involves assumptions derived from extant empirical research. For example, ideal types have been used as a way of setting out the defining characteristics of a social phenomenon, so that its salient features might be stated as clearly and explicitly as possible. A heuristic device is, then, a form of preliminary analysis. Such devices have proved especially useful in studies of social change, by defining bench-marks, around which variation and differences can then be situated. In this context, a heuristic device is usually employed for analytical clarity, although it can also have explanatory value as a model.
Iran National Front (Jebhe Melli Iran) was established in 1949.
JM had two primary objective: gain Iran’s de facto independence from the de facto British colonial control of Iran; and to gradually democratize Iran. The first objective was to be achieved via nationalizing our oil which was owned and operated by the British, through which they controlled Iran’s economy and politics. The Pahlavi state was a colonial construct to subjugate the Iranian people so that the British could have control of Iranian oil. Reza Shah came to power with the help of the British, although he did show some autonomy at times. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was total nokar of the UK and US. The Shah simply had gone to the UK and US and told them that if they support him to become the absolute power in Iran, he would protect their control of Iran.
The second objective was to be achieved by compelling the Shah to accept to abide by the 1906 Constitution.
JM was not a revolutionary party. I am using the term “party” interchangeably with “coalition of parties and individuals.” JM believed in gradual step by step methods. JM was a non-violent party. JM was an above-ground party. These features gave (and give) JM some advantages as well as some disadvantages. Advantage: time after time, JM has won elections when there were free and fair elections. Disadvantage: it is very very easy to repress the JM. The Shah’s military in 1953, or SAVAK in 1962-63, Shah’s regime 1953-1978, or the vf regime 1979-present, could easily monitor the activities of the leaders and cadres of JM, arrest them, and execute, or assassinate them.
JM is very good in getting votes. JM is not good at street battles. Among JM leaders have been some of the MOST educated Iranians. For example, Mossadegh was the first Iranian with a doctorate of law (partial exception, there was an Iranian Armenian who got his Ph.D. before Mossadegh but stayed in Iran briefly and seen left Iran), Dr. Sanjabi (one of Iran’s top jurists, and the Dean of the School of Law and Political Science at the University of Tehran), Dr. Sedighi (the father of Sociology in Iran), Dr. Fatemi (top political scientist and the youngest Foreign Minister of Iran), Dr. Bakhtiar (political scientist), Dr. Ali Rashidi (currently in prison, he is the co-founder and president of the Association of Economists of Iran, and one of the top economists of Iran, he is a member of the Leadership Council of JM), Dr. Parviz Varjavand (one of Iran’s top cultural anthropologists), and many many more.
The number and quality of JM’s cadres has changed greatly since 1949. During 1977-1981, JM lacked a large number of cadres. We had a very large cadres during 1961-63 period and to lesser extent 1949-53. JM’s social base (modern middle class) is willing to vote for JM. They are not willing to kill or die. JM leaders are willing to die for the cause; they are NOT willing to kill.
JM is not an organization suited for mass killings. JM is a civil libertarian organization. Some organizations or individuals (e.g., Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, monarchists, Khomeini, Khamenei, Islamic fundamentalists) are well-suited for mass slaughter of unarmed protesters. JM simply is NOT an entity suited for mass slaughter of the people.
JM simply did NOT trust the Shah. Mohammad Reza Shah had used many many people (including his own loyal supporters). Ahmad Qavam during the Azerbaijan crisis helped keep our Azerbaijan province (of course President Truman played the main role by reportedly threatening to use nukes on USSR). But the Shah got rid of him soon after. Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi played a major role during the 1953 coup and the post-coup repression. But when he restored the Shah’s rule, the Shah dismissed him. Zahedi was PM for only about 2 years. The Shah wanted to have absolute power in his own hands. He would not share power even with his own loyal supporters. And the poor Hoveyda. Hoveyda was a loyal servant to the Shah for 13 years as PM merely behaved as non-entity who merely carried out the orders of the Shah. And what was his reward? The Shah put the poor soul in PRISON to punish him when crisis began. Gen. Nematollah Nasiri was one of the most disgusting genocidal mass murders of our history and a loyal supporter of the Shah who had served as the brutal savage head of SAVAK. What did the Shah do to his own loyal servant? The Shah put Nasiri in prison as soon as the crisis began. The Shah had taken the oath to respect the 1906 Constitution, and had absolutely utterly destroyed constitutional rule.
In sum, JM regarded the Shah as a liar, charlatan, untrustworthy, and power-hungry thug, who would use other people with no regard for simple decency. The actual history of his behavior has shown a consistent pattern of using others during times of crisis, and as soon as crisis was over, to return to absolute power.
The lesson of history was that if Iran was to have independence (esteghlal), freedom (azadi), democracy, and human rights, the Shah had to go. Iran could not enjoy independence, freedom, democracy, and human rights as long as the Shah was in power.
Whereas some countries had begum democratizing in the early 1970s (e.g., Portugal, Spain, Greece, perhaps even in periods Turkey and Pakistan), the Shah was becoming more and more absolutist. In 1975, he abolished his fake two parties, and instead established his Rastakhiz Party. What was worse was that the Shah FORCED all the people to either join his party, or go to jail, or leave our country of Iran!!!!!!!!! For his celebration of the 2,500 year anniversary of Cyrus the Great, he ordered the arrests of large number of people who had done nothing!!!!!!
Basically, the Shah lacked any source of legitimacy.
* The Shah lacked nationalist legitimacy. He was regarded as puppet of the UK and US. He gave our oil (which had been nationalized) back to foreign control.
* The Shah lacked democratic legitimacy. He was a brutal tyrant. Although Iran had several real elections since 1906, the Shah did not allow any freedom of parties, free elections, freedom of the press, and the like.
* The Shah lacked the traditional sources of legitimacy. If a dynasty or group which has been in power for millennia or at least a few hundred years, people regard it as legitimate because it has always been so (even if one could not find much reason or rationality for it). The Shah’s father had come to power by making a coup with the help of the British. Ahmad Shah as weak and corrupt as he was, at least had not signed the Treaty of 1919, which would have formalized the British colonial subjugation of Iran. The Pahlavi dynasty, was a colonial creation to subjugate the Iranian people in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Russian Tsarist regime. It was not the creation of hundreds or thousands of years of Iranian history. In contrast, the ruling families of Jordan and Morocco claim direct descent from the Prophet Mohammad (which is regarded as a source of legitimacy for their social base) or the ruling families in Saudi Arabia (who had ruled the central part of the Arabian peninsula for about 300 years or the al Sabah family of Kuwait who had been the tribal rulers of that region for hundreds of years).
* The Pahlavis lacked the good will of the people for their social justice. On the contrary, Reza Shah engaged in massive stealing of the properties of the Iranian people and the stealing from the national treasury. The Pahlavis were regarded as corrupt and thieves who stole from the people to enrich themselves. Their extravagance and conspicuous consumption, while the mass of the people were suffering from hunger and disease, was like pouring salts on their wounds. The Pahlavis were regarded as “taze be doran resideh” (and their wealth was STOLEN and not earned legitimately), who lacked the social conscience of the middle classes, or the noblesse oblige of the older established upper classes. This culture of superficiality and shallowness is evident among many LA Iranians.
* The Shah lacked religious sources of legitimacy. The Shah’s propaganda to portray himself as the “protector of Shia Islam” and as “the only Shia King” instead of buying him religious legitimacy, increased the POLITICAL role of Islamist forces who had a far more legitimate claim to represent Shia Islam. In the mid-1970, the Shah had posters of him plastered all over the country which showed lights emanating from above with the words “Shah Sayeh Khodast” [the Shah is Shadow of God]. And during Ramadan, the regular tv and radios program were suspended and religious programmings were broadcast all day (with the sole exception of a shortened News at night). And the Shah was publically claiming that the 12th Imam was in contact with him and providing him with national security news before they would actually happen!!!!!
A ruler may come to power through means that many may regard as not being legitimate. For example, by force of arms, via coup, of foreign intervention. Such a ruler, rules via force. The people have to submit or they will be killed, put in jail, or suffer other adverse consequences. So, in such situations, the mass of the people simply remain silent. If this ruler is wise, he (or she) would gradually create sources of legitimacy. For if a ruler lacks deep legitimacy, as soon as crisis emerges, the people will overthrow him and try to get another form of government more to their likings.
The Shah did a number of things that further enraged the people of Iran. Only those who lived in Iran between 1970 and 1977 understand the depth of hatred for the Shah. Those who were too young those years to comprehend and those who grew up or were born after the revolution simply lack the emotional feelings that the VAST majority of the people had at that time. Having lived under the nightmarish hell of Khomeini and Khamenei, people forget that BEFORE the IRI nightmare, large numbers of the Iranian people despised the Shah’s regime. Things are sooooooooo horrendous under the fundamentalists, that people forget about less horrendous conditions before the revolution. Judging by the horrendous conditions under Khomeini and Khamenei, a lot of people ask why the hell you changed the regime when you could openly drink, party, the economy was great….. Judging the 1970-77 period with the 1980-present, that era looks good. This judgment suffers from presentism. The American saying “jumping from the frying pan to fire” and the Iranian saying “az chaleh dar omad oftad to chah” shows the two periods. But for the adults living in the 1970s, who opposed the Shah, the overwhelming majority wanted to get out of the chaleh and go to the peaks of mountains (independence, democracy, freedom, human rights), and not to fall to another worse chah (fundamentalist rule).
The overwhelming majority of the people who participated in the 1977-79 revolution were looking up at the desired mountain peak and not at the hell hole of vf regime. The monarchists and the fundamentalist may wish to portray the choice as a dichotomy: either the nokar Pahlavi tyranny or the hellish fundamentalist nightmare. But that was a false dichotomy.
JM provided a third choice: independence, democracy, freedom, and human rights. Were the Iranian people condemned to live on either the frying pan or the fire. Were the Iranian people condemned to live either in a hole or in a well. Or did we have the chance to live as free men and women on the top of the mountain or at least on the valley? In this essay, I demonstrate that it was possible to avoid BOTH the horrible choices of the Pahlavi tyranny and the VF tyranny. The fact that we ended up at the nightmarish hell of IRI is NOT the fault of the JM. That it is the fault of the Shah, Carter, of course Khomeini and his base, and many oppositions groups after the revolution.
By 1976, the Shah was at the height of his absolutist power. The Shah’s regime was basically a police-state, with SAVAK routinely arresting, torturing any dissent. Sodomizing male political prisoners with soft drink bottles was a form of torture. Some female political prisoners (e.g., Ashraf Dehghani) were sexually raped by SAVAK torturers. High school kids were sent to SAVAK torture chambers merely for writing a composition (ensha) critical of the Shah. University students were arrested and tortured merely for forming study groups to study philosophy. Then, Jimmy Carter was elected in Nov 1976. Carter had talked about human rights violations including in U.S. client states. He had mentioned human rights violations by the Shah twice during his campaign.
Cater’s election was huge for the Iranians. The Shah freaked out. As nokar of the U.S., he could no longer engage in gross human rights violations now that promotion of human rights had of the sudden become a hallmark of the new administration’s foreign policy. And the pro-democracy opposition to the Shah was excited and happy. It meant that the cost of repression for the Shah had gone up. Whereas under the previous U.S. administrations, the Shah was granted carte blanche to murder, execute, torture, and rape the Iranian people, now he was under pressures not to do these.
JM’s leaders Dr. Sanjabi, Dr. Bakhtiar, and Dariush Forouhar wrote the famous open letter to the Shah politely demanding respect for the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and respect for the 1906 Constitution, which meant freedom and free elections.
(thanks to Parham for the link)
Soon, others followed JM’s lead. Under the leadership of JM members, the Kanon Vokala, and Jurists released an open letter. Later, Kanon Nevisandegan held its 10 days of poetry at the Goethe Institute at the German Embassy. Between June 1977 and December 1977, Khomeini and fundamentalist forces were absent from the public scene.
If the Shah accepted the demands and the policy recommendations of the JM in 1977, the likelihood of success to transition to democracy was almost 100%. The analogy with basketball is like Lebron or (me) be given the basketball in the paint. Even in the unlikely event that at the first try the ball would miss the basket, it would certainly go in the next tries. To achieve a transition to democracy in Iran between June and December 1977 was almost 100%.
President Carter made a horrendous mistake, a horrible FATAL mistake which cost so much blood and agony for the Iranian people and the American people. On the Christmas Eve, President Carter stopped by Tehran, and had official dinner with the Shah. Carter toasted the Shah. Carter totally betrayed his own ideals of human rights and commitment to democracy, and fully and unequivocally embraced and supported the Shah. Carter’s mistake is probably one of the worst mistakes of the 20th century American foreign policy.
The Iranian democrats and human rights activists regarded this as a total betrayal of Iranian democrats and human rights advocates. Cater proved to be a hypocrite who was embracing the Shah and supporting his bloody tyranny. From then on, the great good will that had been generated evaporated overnight. Worse, from January 1978 until the collapse of the monarchy, after every massacre, President Carter or the White House would release a public statement fully supporting the Shah’s bloody massacres. By doing so, Carter badly soiled his image and the image of the U.S. among the Iranian people. Carter’s support for the Shah’s tyranny was one of the worst mistakes of the 20th century. It alienated the Iranian people from the U.S. (By the way, President Obama is committing the same grave mistake by negotiating with Khamenei instead of supporting the Iranian people and supporting the demand of the Iranian people for regime change).
President Carter could have simply ordered the Shah to stop being a dictator, respect the 1906 Constitution, and hold free and fair elections. Or even ORDER the Shah to allow free elections, respect the results, and leave Iran if the Iranian people so desired. Then, the likelihood of Iran having a successful transition to democracy would have close to 100%. JM would have won the overwhelming majority of the votes. It would be like Lebron James with the basketball in the paint.
After the infamous Carter toast to the Shah, the Shah felt emboldened. He began a new campaign of terror against the JM and other pro-democracy forces. The Shah ordered the bombings of the homes and offices of the JM leaders. The Shah bombed the homes and offices of JM leaders and closely related democrats such as Dr. Sanjabi, Dariush Forouhar, Dr. Matin-Daftari, Moghadam Maraghei, Hajji Moinian, Bazargan, Dr. AbdolKarim Lahiji (the father of human rights in Iran), Dr. Hasan Nazieh.
The Shah sent its security coercive apparatuses in plain cloths (lebas shakhsi of the Shah) to disrupt the meetings of JM and beat up its members. In one such attack during Eide Qorban, the Shah’s lebas shakhsi-ha attacked JM leaders and broke the hand of Dr. Bakhtiar. Many were sent to hospital.
After the publication of a nasty article in Ittelaat daily against Khomeini, for the FIRST time (in recent period) the supporters of Khomeini joined the struggle. Khomeini was a monarchist from the early 1940s to 1963. In his first book, Kashef Asrar, Khomeini explicitly and strongly supports monarchy. We now know that Khomeini was a supporter of Sheikh Fazollah Nouri, the infamous absolutist monarchist cleric, who opposed the constitutional revolution and sided with the absolutist Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar. Nouri was hanged by the constitutionalists. During the 1953 coup, Khomeini was a clerk for Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi. Brujerdi was a supporter of the Shah. After the 1953 coup, Brujerdi send a public telegram congratulating the Shah. Clerics under Brujerdi such as Ayatollah Behbahani and Hojatolislam Falsafi played major roles during the coup by mobilizing their supporters and mobs against Mossadegh and in support of the Shah and Kermit Roosevelt’s plan on 28 Amordad. After the coup, Khomeini brought secret messages from Brujerdi to the Shah.
Even as late as 1981, Khomeini opposed Mossadegh and supported Ayatollah Kashani and the 1953 coup by saying that if the U.S. had not slapped Mossadegh, Mossadegh would have slapped Islam. Khomeini even said that Mossadegh was not a Muslim.
Khomeini began opposing the Shah in 1963 due to the reforms (e.g., land reform, female franchise, changing taking oath to a holy book from taking oath to the Qoran, which would have allowed non-Muslims to get government jobs).
Fundamentalists are a reality in the Middle East. Their support base ebbs and flows depending on a number of factors. Khomeini and his social base are very different than JM’s leaders and social base. Khomeini and other fundamentalist leaders are willing to kill millions and millions of people to remain in power. Khomeini’s cadres are willing to kill and to die for their cause. Khomeini’s social base is willing to kill and die for their cause.
Due to the policies of the Shah and President Carter, gradually the power of JM decreased and the power of Khomeini increased. Between January 1978 and August 1978, JM was still powerful. If the Shah had agreed to the JM demands and policy proposals, we could have saved Iran from the Shah’s tyranny as well as the coming to power of Khomeini. Going with the basketball analogy, it was like making a 3-point shot. As time went by, and the Shah’s policies and Carter’s policies made the matters worse, JM was moved back farther and farther from the basket.
The turning point was the massacre at Jaleh Square in September 1978. From September, Khomeini had the support of the majority of the population on the streets. It was in early November 1978, after the successful strike by the oil workers, and many other strikes by civil servants, that finally Carter understood the gravity of the situation. Between January 1978 and November 1978, there were numerous marches and rallies. The Shah had ordered the armed forces to use violence to kill the unarmed protesters and put down the protests. Large number of the people were thus murdered by the Shah. The massive violence by the Shah and the public support by Carter for the Shah’s massacres, increasingly radicalized the Iranian people. JM’s demand that “the Shah reign but not rule” became increasingly meaningless for a savage blood-thirsty mass murderer that the Shah was (or believed to be by the people). Khomeini’s demand that “Shah bayad beravad” [the Shah has to go] made a lot more sense as the Shah refused to accept the moderate demands of the JM, and instead kept murdering the people.
In the past year and half we have witnessed how the process in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria have evolved. Only after a few weeks, Ben Ali and Mubarak agreed to leave, thus much of the state institutions (i.e., armed forces, judiciary) survived. Between June 1977 and January 1979, the Shah pursued the same policy that have been pursued by Moamar Ghazafi and Bashar al-Asad. The Shah refused to accept demands to leave and instead used massive violence and repression against the people.
Violence and repression sometimes work and sometimes backfire. The result depends on a variety of factors. The repression by the Shah (and Qadzafi) failed.
The failure became evident by the Jaleh Square massacre in September 1978. The Pahlavi regime thus began its public, slow, collapse. By late October or early November 1978 the collapse of the Pahlavi regime was certain. When and how it would collapse would be determined by the decisions of the Shah (and the U.S.).
On Nov 3, the Cater national security team (Brezinski, Vance, Brown) reached an agreement that the solution should be either a government by JM or a military government. The U.S. tells the U.S. embassy to communicate this to the Shah. Also Brezinski himself on Nov 4, 1978 calls the Shah and tells him that a military government is also an option and also adds that he does not know of a military government which has failed (and two days later the Shah appoints Gen. Azhari military government).
source UK source MM provided, page 62.
(Thanks to MM for the link)
The Shah appointed the military government under Gen. Gholam Reza Azhari, whose cabinet ruled from November 6,1978 until January 4, 1979.
At the same time, the Shah began talking separately with Dr. Sedighi, Dr. Bakhtiar, and Dr. Sanjabi.
Dr. Sedighi’s demands were for the Shah to remain in Iran (so he could control the armed forces and prevent them from making a coup), he would take his appointment from Majles, he would support the 1906 Constitution, the Shah had to transfer the wealth of his family to the treasury. There were 5 meetings between the Shah and Dr. Sedighi. Dr. Sedighi was willing to accept the responsibility. The Shah refused to offer Sedighi the appointment. Sedighi then supported Dr. Bakhtiar and later on re-joined the JM (and then left again).
Dr. Bakhtiar’s demands were: the Shah leave Iran and go on a vacation; the armed forces would take orders from the Prime Minister; he would take the appointment from the Majles and take the oath to preserve the 1906 Constitution (i.e., monarchy). The Shah offered the PM to Bakhtiar.
Dr. Sanjabi was the number 1 leader of JM. At that time (1977-November 1978). Dr. Sedighi was not a member of JM and was not attending JM meetings. JM asked Sedighi not to accept the Shah’s offer. By October 1978, it had become clear that Khomeini had the majority of support of the masses in the streets. In rallies after rallies, millions and millions of the people were on the streets of Iran holding Khomeini’s portraits and supporting him. By November the ONLY way to deprive Khomeini from any power was to use massive violence. It means that hundreds of thousands, perhaps 1 or 2 million people had to be killed to put down the protesters who supported Khomeini. In October 1978, Sanjabi went to Paris and issued a joint statement with Khomeini. The Three Point Agreement stated that the Shah’s regime had to go. The future system will be based on nationalist (melli) and Islamic principles. That the future system will be based on free VOTE of the people. In his discussions with the Shah, Sanjabi’s demands were simple: the Shah would go to a vacation; Sanjabi would not take his oath based on the 1906 Constitution; he would try to get Khomeini to support his government.
If Sanjabi was able to get the support of Khomeini, then he could calm on the streets. He would have been able to preserve the armed forces from total collapse. Sanjabi believed that he could contain Khomeini. There would have been a referendum on “Monarchy or Republic.” In November 1978, Khomeini did not have as much power as he did after the collapse of the armed forces after the revolution from February 11, 1979. There would have been free elections for Majles Moasesan (Constitutional Convention). Unlike Bazargan who was a liberal Islamist, Sanjabi was SECULAR. JM was much stronger in Oct 1978 than it was in Feb 1979. In late Nov, early December 1978, Dr. Bakhtiar split from JM and took with him a good chunk of JM. I would guess at least about 25% of JM people went with him. And they included some of the most active, secular, and articulate members, cadres, and supporters. Had there not been a split, and the Shah accepted Sanjabi’s demands, JM had enough power to perhaps pull it off.
Soon after victory there would have been conflicts between Sanjabi-JM and Khomeini-fundamentalists. What positions other parties (e.g., Fadaian, PMOI, Paykar, Tudeh, Melli-Mazhabis, Nehzat Azadi) would take would determine the course of the struggle. If the Shah had accepted Sanjabi’s demands, there was a chance. Using our basketball analogy, this would allow JM to dribble the basketball closer to the hoop, where JM would have a realistic chance to make the basket.
The Shah had asked his military leaders what they suggest to do. The Commander of the Navy, Admiral Kamal Habibollahi (from December 1975 until Feb 11, 1979) told the Shah of a plan. Apparently the plan was soooooooooooo blood-thirsty that the Shah rejected it. He asked for something more practical. Some years ago, I read one of the declassified documents from the National Security Archives which was a document of discussion between a top U.S. officials (if I remember correctly he was either the American military attache at U.S. Embassy in Tehran or some official with more or less similar position). He had asked Gen. Nasiri what to do. The plan he had suggested was soooooooooooo blood-thirsty that the American official said it made his blood curl (sp?), and the hair on the back of his neck to stand up.
President Carter sent Gen. Robert Huyser to Tehran to meet and talk with Iranian generals. It is not clear what his mission was. The official line from the Carter administration was to help keep Iran’s military unified so they would not collapse. Many dispute that. Gen. Alexander Haig who was the Commander of NATO and Huyser’s boss has publically disputed that line. In fact, in protest to Carter’s policy, Haig resigned his office. One suspicion has been that the military was planning a coup to come to power. The Iranian generals considered the Shah to have been too weak, and they did not trust Bakhtiar, and that they feared the rise of Khomeini unless they make a bloody coup.
A massive bloodshed might have stopped Khomeini. But the Carter administration was against it (except Zbignew Brezhinski who was a strong supporter of a bloody military coup). The Shah was not willing to go along either because he was not getting solid support from Carter or from the American ambassador William Sullivan, or he just did not have the stomach for it, or because he did not think it would work.
The Shah asks Dr. Bakhtiar to form a cabinet. Bakhtiar forms a cabinet on January 4, 1979. This was tooooooooooo late. The Pahlavi regime was in the final stages of total collapse. The Chair of the Royal Council [Shoray Saltanat] went to Paris and gave his resignation to Khomeini. The Shah’s closest adviser and the head of the Court’s Intelligence (the only authority above SAVAK other than the Shah) Gen.Fardoost was secretly collaborating with Khomeini. The Havanirooz cadets (Iran’s equivalent of Army Air) publically supported Khomeini, placed his portraits on their barracks. The Imperial Guards decide to attack them without prior permission from the Prime Minister Bakhtiar or other military chiefs. The whole thing backfires and the people join the cadets and (many military officers had changed sides open their military barracks and distribute arms to the people), with the help from Fadaian, PMOI, and fundamentalists defeat the Imperial Guards.
Many generals were secretly in contact with the ayatollahs (without telling Bakhtiar). A day or two after the attack on Havanirooz, the generals (all the chiefs of the various branches) sign the letter of neutrality in the fight between the people and Bakhtiar’s government. Many top officials of the Shah had already sent their wives and children out of Iran. Large numbers of the monarchists had already transferred their money out of Iran. Large numbers of monarchists had already left Iran. All these were the visible signs of the collapse of the regime as well as institutions such as the armed forces.
By December 1978, the Pahlavi regime was in the final stages of collapse. Perhaps the sole way to prevent the rise of Khomeini was a military coup and the slaughter of 1 or 2 million people. Simply put, JM is NOT the party to carry out such as a blood-thirsty massacre.
The notion that Dr. Sanjabi could go on tv and deliver a speech which would calm the situation, and convince millions of the supporters of Khomeini to accept him or Bakhtiar as prime minister is like asking someone standing in his own paint in his own court to throw the basketball the whole court and make the basket. Lebron James could not do that.
In sum, to put Lebron on his own side of the court in his own paint, and tell him here is the ball, NOW throw it to the hoop. And if he said he could not do it, to call him traitor, is beyond khutspah. Only a charlatan would blame a person for not making the basket from the paint from his side of the court.
Monarchists are really poor roo, who had oppressed the people for sooooooooo long. Refused to accept the policy proposal of JM when they could actually bring democracy to Iran. Instead their homes and offices were BOMBED. Again, as late as November 1978, the Shah refused to give Dr. Sanjabi the prime ministership (under his conditions).
Dr. Bakhtiar and his supporters took a huge risk. When he accepted the responsibility, Bakhtiar himself thought he has about one-third chance of success. In other words, Bakhtiar believed the likelihood of failure is 2/3. Of course, when he took the job, he did NOT know the secret collaboration between Gen. Fardoost and the ayatollahs, he did not know the secret negotiations between Shah’s generals and the ayatollah, he did not know that the military would abandon him, he did not foresee that the Havanirooz would rebel and side with Khomeini. Based on what actually transpired, the likelihood of success for Bakhtiar was probably less than 1%. When Khomeini with millions of his supporters are thirsty for power, and all other political forces (Fadaian, PMOI, Peykar) want to overthrow of the regime, and the armed forces could not hold, he had no chance. If the only way to stop Khomeini was to use massive violence, then Gen. Azhari’s military government was the cabinet to do it. If the generals wanted to make a coup in order to get rid of the Shah and Bakhtiar and forcefully put down the protests, then what the hell could JM do?????????
Lets assume that Sanjabi and the rest of JM would accept Bakhtiar’s solution. Sanjabi would deliver a number of speeches on tv and radio, and magically millions and millions who were supporting Khomeini would be convinced to calm down and go home. Several months later, say in June 1979, or in November 1979, calm would have been restored by JM cabinet. The Shah who was on vacation, would decide to come home. He would dismiss his prime minister. What should then Bakhtiar or Sanjabi do? Should they accept the farman of the Shah and resign? Or should they reject the Shah’s dismissal of them? If they accepted the Shah’s dismissal farman, then Iran would be back to where the process began (we are what the situation was around Oct/Nov 1978). If they rejected the Shah’s order, then the Shah would order the military and his SAVAK 2.0 to arrest them, execute them, torture their supporters. And we would be back to square one again (Oct/Nov 1978). In the best case scenario, in a few months, the situation would be back to before JM would accept to join Bakhtiar. That is in another 2-4 months, Khomeini would be in power. As long as the Shah was not willing to abdicate, the generals were not supportive of transition to democracy, and Khomeini and his supporters want power, and all other political forces support the overthrow of the government, NOTHING would be achieved by the JM action.
In 1978, the JM and the people did NOT know that the Shah had cancer. Keep in mind the Shah’s twin sister is still alive. There was no reason to assume he would die in July 1980. Also keep in mind that the generals were MORE blood-thirsty than the Shah. The Shah’s top generals absolutely hated Mossadegh and democrats. So, the Shah dying while the generals had power, they could make a coup against Bakhtiar’s cabinet or JM (Sanjabi and Bakhtiar) cabinet.
The POINT is that even in the best case scenario, we would be back to square one. The Shah or the military would come back to absolute power. Then, there would have been resistance by Khomeini and fundamentalists as well as Fadaian, PMOI, Melli-Mazhabis, and the pro-democracy movement.
Either the monarchists (either the Shah or the generals) would win the civil war or the opposition to the monarchists would win the civil war.
One thing is crystal clear: EVERYBODY would blame and CONDEMN Sanjabi and JM for committing treason for helping the Shah at the moment of his greatest weakness. For those who support independence, they would blame JM for helping the nokar Shah to keep Iran as a subservient country. For all those who support democracy, they would blame JM for helping the Shah to restore and maintain his tyranny. The same for all those who support freedom and human rights.
Today we all know that Khomeini was a zillion times worse than the Shah. But if Khomeini had never come to power, we could not know that. If some political scientist came along and wrote on a blog that if Khomeini would have come to power, he would establish his own absolutist clerical rule, would take American embassy personnel hostage for 444 days, would order the mass killings and mass rape of little female political prisoners, would LIE, would provoke a war with Iraq (in which Iraq would use chemical weapons and about 400,000 or so Iranians would die), ALL Iranians who had not seen the rule of IRI would call this a fantasy that only an imaginative mind can come up with.
In December 1978-January 1979, the people were certain that the Shah was a blood-thirsty tyrant and a liar and charlatan, that no sane person should trust. In December 1978-January 1979, the people did not know Khomeini. In Paris, Khomeini was promising freedom and democracy, he was explicitly saying that he would not accept any government job, that he would go back to Qom to be back to his seminary school and mosque, that Shia clerics should NOT be president.
Now, the Iranian people KNOW that Khomeini was a blood-thirsty tyrant, a charlatan, and liar.
What is amazing is that even AFTER all the horrible experience, the hard-line fundamentalists probably have about 10% support among the population. The Reformist faction of the fundamentalist oligarchy probably has another 10% support among the people. Based on my observations, the monarchists support is somewhere between 5% to 10% of the population. There is no credible indication of any kind to show that the monarchists constitute a majority of the Iranian population.
To have a system such as monarchy, a super-majority should support that system. Unlike a simple government that changes with every election (for parliament in parliamentary system or for president in a presidential system), the monarch is a permanent (for life and then one’s descendants) thing. If a monarch has only 52% support today, in a few years it could have only 48% support. Then, how could there be a change of the system of monarchy.
A constitutional system (any constitutional system) needs to have a super majority support among the population. It is crystal clear that the Pahlavis LACK such support. This logically follows that if we want to have democracy in Iran (or any legitimate form of government) then the first step was the overthrow of the Pahlavi rule. The system of monarchy was not a tenable system for Iran in 1977 or in 1978, or in 1979, or in 2012.
By 1978, there was no solution other than the abolition of the monarchy. The Shah lacked legitimacy. The 1977-1979 Iranian revolution was a genuinely popular revolution. The opposition to the Shah was embraced by individuals from virtually all social classes and groups (rich, middle class, poor, urban, rural, men, women, religious, non religious). There were competing parties among the people each with its own goals.
What was NOT certain was who would gain the support of the majority or plurality. The struggle began in June 1977 and it ended in July 1981.
(1) June 1977 to late December 1977.
If the Shah had accepted JM’s demands and proposals in June 1977, the likelihood of establishing democracy was around 100%.
If President Carter had ordered the Shah to respect human rights of the Iranian people, or better to allow free elections and then leave Iran, then we could have established a secular democratic republic. Iran today would have been an advanced, prosperous, stable, legitimate democracy.
JM was right. The Shah and Carter were wrong and bad.
(2) January 1978 to August 1978
JM could probably establish a transition to democracy. Khomeini and fundamentalists as well as the leftists would have had influence. The likelihood JM success around 50% to 80% with inverse relationship to date: the later the time the lower likelihood of success.
(3) September 1978 to October-November 1978
Khomeini clearly had the upper hand. The likelihood of Khomeini’s rise to power around 50% to 99%.
The likelihood of Sanjabi’s solution being successful around 50% to 80%.
The likelihood of Bakhtiar’s solution less than 5%. In the long run probably 0%. I can not imagine either the Shah or the generals would have accepted Bakhtiar’s rule for long. As soon as Bakhtiar would have succeeded in restoring calm and order, the Shah would return from vacation and would want his usual absolute power. Keep in mind that the Shah never abdicated. He just wanted to use Bakhtiar to restore calm. The top generals were even more dictatorial and violent than the Shah. So, if Bakhtiar had succeeded and the Shah died of cancer, the generals would make a coup and establish their own dictatorship. The only question is which would have been more bloody for Iran: the rule of Khomeini or the rule of generals. Bakhtiar needed the military so he could not purge the generals. The generals hated Bakhtiar and would have gotten rid of him as soon as Bakhtiar succeeded in restoring calm.
The likelihood of success of the military coup restoring calm after massacre of 100,000 to 2 million people around 50% to 90%.
(4) December 1978-February 1979
The likelihood of success of the Sanjabi solution 10% to40%
The likelihood of success of the Bakhtiar solution 0% to 5%.
The likelihood of success of the military coup restoring calm after massacre of 100,000 to 2 million people 50% to 5%. In early December probably close to 50% and the likelihood of success dropping every day.
In conclusion, if my analysis and estimates are correct, then the rise of Khomeini is TOTALLY the fault of the Shah and President Carter. Knowing what was known at THAT time, I can not identify any major mistakes by Sanjabi. If the Shah did what was suggested by JM in June 1977 letter, there would not a regime by Khomeini. If the Shah did what was suggested by JM during January 1978 to August 1978, there is a very high likelihood that we could have had democracy. If the Shah had accepted Sanjabi’s suggestion as late as October-November 1978, there was a chance that Khomeini’s power could have been contained. By having repeatedly refused the suggestions of JM and Sanjabi, by December 1978, collapse of the Pahlavi regime was almost certain. The sole method might have been able to stop Khomeini by late November early December 1978 was a military coup and massive slaughter of the people (in the range of 100,000 to 2 million). JM is simply NOT the party to carry out massacres.
In my opinion, the monarchists who blame Sanjabi for the rise of Khomeini are charlatans. They are like the person who refuses to give the basketball to the player when he is in the paint, or when the player is in the 3 point area close to the paint, and pushes the player to his side of the court and in his own paint, and then says here is the basketball, go ahead and make the basket.
I can understand the criticism of Dr. Bakhtiar and his supporters. Bakhtiar took a HUGE risk. In Sanjabi’s opinion, there was no likelihood of success of Bakhtiar’s policy. Bakhtiar believed that there is a serious risk that Khomeini would be dictatorial and worse then the Shah or his generals. History has proven that Khomeini was a zillion times worse than what the Shah actually did. It is NOT clear how bad the Shah or his generals might have been if they could come back to power if Bakhtiar was successful in restoring calm.
Sanjabi and Bakhtiar were decent, brave, democrats who loved Iran. Both consistently fought against the brutal tyrannies of the Shah and fundamentalists. Neither succeeded in the method he chose. Unfortunately, the two men exchanged unkind words against each other during the heat of the moment of struggle. Today, we honor both great men. Despite their best efforts, they were placed at a situation with no real chance of success. They did what each thought would be best for Iran.
Based on what was known then, Sanjabi kept providing demands and policy proposals that were right. Sanjabi did not make any major mistake. Of course he made a number of bad minor mistakes (e.g., praising Khomeini in his interview with the BBC).
Even if Sanjabi did what Bakhtiar did, or totally supported Bakhtiar, or joined his cabinet, simply by January 4, 1979, it was too late to prevent the collapse of the Pahlavi regime and prevent the rise of Khomeini.
JM Policies During the Post-Revolution Period
JM accepted to be part of the cabinet formed by Mehdi Bazargan. According to the JM’s analysis the main contradiction after the revolution was between democracy and dictatorship. JM was the main leader of the pro-democracy bloc. Khomeini (and IRP, Islamic Republican Party) was soon to be the leader of the pro-dictatorship bloc. JM regarded Nehzat Azadi (NA) as semi-democratic and worthy of our support.
Sanjabi (and our historians, scholars, journalists) should be criticized for not having studied Khomeini before February 1979. After Feb 1979, it became crystal clear that Khomeini had massive support. But before June 1977, Khomeini was a minor player. In June 1963, his supporters could only riot for a few days, and after a few hundred killed, calm was easily restored. And when again, in October 1964 he opposed the Shah for the SOFA with the U.S., the regime simply arrested him, put him in prison, and then exiled him to Turkey (and from there to Iraq).
Islamic fundamentalists, of course, had been around since the late 1920s with the rise of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the more or less similar groups in Iran, especially with the rise of Fadaian Islam.
What was ahuge shock after the revolution were the policies of various leftist groups: Fadaian, PMOI, Paykar, Tudeh, and Aksariyat (after the split in Fadaian).
Fadaian (before the split), PMOI, and Paykar were the largest leftist parties, with each having hundreds of thousands of supporters. They were different than JM in many ways. The leaders of Fadaian, PMOI, and Paykar were not people with Ph.D.s in social sciences. They were mostly university students who had become guerrillas and were engaged in underground activities. They were brave men and women who were willing to die and to kill. Much of their cadres also were young men and women, with university education, and willing to kill and die. Their social base of potential voters (especially the PMOI) was in the many millions.
If from the get go, the Fadaian, PMOI, and Paykar were willing to side with the pro-democracy forces and oppose the pro-dictatorship forces (Khomeini), then there was a very high likelihood of containing Khomeini. Unfortunately, these parties made a terrible mistake.
For Fadaian-Aghaliyat the major contradictions were between imperialism and anti-imperialism as well as between capital and labor. Thus, the time was rip for a proletarian communist revolution. For Fadaian (which was a Marxist-Leninist group), the notions of democracy, civil liberties, and human rights were bourgeois rights, concepts and demands. Their ideal societies were Cuba and to lesser extent the USSR. Fadaian made harsh attacks on liberals (JM, NA, Ayatollah Uzma Kazem Shariatmadari, and Bani Sadr).
Fadaian (like Paykar and PMOI), probably considered the Provisional government ( JM and Bazargan) to be Iran’s equivalent to the Provisional Government of Kerensky that came to power in February/March 1917. Lenin and the Bolsheviks succeeded in coming to power by undermining and attacking the Provisional Government by making radical demands that the Provisional Government could not fulfil. As the masses in Russia were radicalized between Feb/March to October/November 1917, the Bolsheviks increasingly became more popular. For these communist groups, then they should follow the same pattern and make radical demands and undermine and overthrow the Provisional Government of Bazargan.
For these communist groups, Bazargan and liberals were the main enemies. The liberals were educated and modern and could establish a modern advanced democratic capitalist system. For Fadaian-Aghaliyat and Paykar, Khomeini was uneducated and the masses would soon realize that. They thought that Khomeini was petty-bourgeois and not as big a problem as the liberals (JM, NA, Bani Sadr) who were the bourgeoisie.
Fadaian-Aghaliyat did get arms and prepared for guerrilla work. Paykar did not believe in armed struggle. So, they did not get any arms. Paykar believed in political work among the proletariat and thought that the revolution was around the corner. Paykar made the most radical and extremist demands during this period (making harsh attacks on liberals). By the time, Paykar leaders realized their errors, their leaders, cadres, members and supporters were literally being hunted and dragged and shot by the fundamentalists. The ONLY time, Paykar said that the danger came from Khomeini and fundamentalists and that Bani Sadr and PMOI were right was in July 1981, the very last issue of their publication: Paykar #110.
The PMOI was less radical than Fadaian and Paykar. Bazargan who knew Rajavi personally, pleaded with him from the get go to support the Provisional Government, but Rajavi refused. Instead, the PMOI strongly supported Khomeini and the IRGC. Although the PMOI supported Khomeini, from the get go Khomeini, IRP, and the IRGC targeted and attacked the PMOI. The fundamentalists killed about 90 or so members and supporters of the PMOI between Feb 1979 and June 1981; that is before the PMOI retaliated and killed a single fundamentalist in return. Fundamentalists also had put in jail and tortured many PMOI affiliates. A real struggle began between President Bani Sadr and the fundamentalists. The PMOI began to support Bani Sadr sometimes around late 1980 and early 1981.
Tudeh Party and Fadaian-Aksariyat played a very ugly and destructive role. Tudeh viciously attacked the liberals (JM, Bazargan, Bani Sadr) and strongly supported Khomeini and IRGC. There was a real struggle going on between liberals and Khomeini. The USSR regarded the U.S. as the primary enemy. The liberals wanted to have normal relations with the U.S. The Shah was nokar of the U.S. JM was for independence of Iran, and opposed any colonial or imperialist policies, but wanted to have normal and friendly relations with the U.S. (economic, diplomatic, cultural, etc). The Tudeh Party which was subservient to the USSR, thus, viciously attacked liberals and supported Khomeini. Khomeini was anti-American and this was to the benefit of the USSR. The Tudeh Party did what was in the interests of the USSR.
Kianouri infiltrated the Fadaian. With the help from Farrokh Negahdar, Kianouri tried to make Fadaian-Aksariyat join the Tudeh Party. Ali Keshtgar stood up to Negahdar and Kianouri and prevented that. The chief of KGB at the USSR embassy in Tehran defected to the UK. He gave a truck load of documents on the Tudeh party, Fadaian-Aksariyat, and KGB spies in Iran. The British forwarded that to the CIA. The CIA gave that list to Khomeini’s people. So in 1983, the vf regime mass arrested members and supporters of Tudeh Party and Aksariyat. Many of them were executed during the mass executions of August-September 1988.
Between Feb 1979 and their mass arrests in 1983, Tudeh Party and Fadaian-Aksariyat supported Khomeini and attacked liberals, other Marxists (who were fighting against the vf regime), and the PMOI.
Tudeh Party tried to do with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdestan (DPIK) what it did to the Fadaian. But it failed. Under the able leadership of Dr. Ghassemlou, the DPIK became independent from the USSR. Ghassemlou who had earlier in his life been a member of the Tudeh Party, was able to counter the tactics of Tudeh Party. Thus the Tudeh dude in the DPIK, (Mr. Bolorian) was expelled. DPIK was briefly a Euro-Communist party, but soon became a Euro-Socialist party. The DPIK was invited to participate in a conference of the Socialist International (a group of mostly social democratic and socialist parties such as the German Social Democratic Party, French Socialist party, British Labour Party, etc). The DPIK now closely works with the U.S. government, including the George W. Bush government. Earlier DPIK had joined Bani Sadr and the PMOI in the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Under the leadership of Babak Amir-khosravi many Tudeh members split from the party and formed Hezb Democratic Mardom Iran. They tend to be democratic and have criticized many aspects and policies of the Tudeh Party. Mr. Amir-Khosravi was a top member of the Tudeh Party (I think of their Executive Committee). He has been critical of Kianouri, but not of former Secretary-General of TP, Mr. Eskandari. One of Amir-khosravi’s criticism has been that the Tudeh Party should have supported the liberals and opposed Khomeini.
For my doctoral dissertation, I had interviewed Farrokh Negahdar. After the interview was over, we spent some time at a home party and went to dinner at a Persian restaurant in London. At the party, he told me that Fadaian-Aksariyat should have supported Bazargan (instead of Khomeini). I asked him, if I had his permission to write that in my dissertation. He said “yes.”
After the collapse of the USSR, many Fadaian-Aghaliyat abandoned Marxism-Leninism. Many former members of Paykar have fully embraced democracy and freedom.
In sum, if the left parties had supported the liberals after the revolution, there was a very high likelihood that the coalition of center and left could have successfully contained Khomeini and the fundamentalists. If the major Leftist parties had the same political awareness in Feb 1979 that they gained later on, they would have sided with the democratic forces and opposed Khomeini. Their decision was not based on lack of knowledge that liberals were for democracy and Khomeini was a terribly dictatorial person. Rather, their decision was based on their wrong analysis. There were some democratic socialist groups at that time that advocated alliance with liberals. For example, Jebhe Democratic Melli Iran, Shoray Motehhad Chap Brayeh Democracy va Esteghlal and Etehhad Barayeh Azadi Kar opposed Khomeini from the get go and allied with the liberals. There was also a Maoist group that strongly supported Bani Sadr.
Jebhe Melli After the Revolution
(1) After the revolution, Dr. Sanjabi strongly condemned the violations of human rights and the lack of due process of the law by the Revolutionary Courts and Revolutionary Committees. All the other parties were calling for the mass executions of monarchists.
(2) Dr. Sanjabi and JM members resigned from the provisional Government on April 15, 1979, which is about 2 months and few days after the victory of the revolution on Feb 11, 1979. The reason was the violations mentioned above.
(3) JM strongly condemned Khomeini’s dismissal of female judges. JM called for a rally at University of Tehran in May 1979 to condemn Khomeini’s fatwa against female judges. JM was the ONLY political party that had the courage to do that.
(4) In August 1979, JM publicly condemned Khomeini’s order to close down the Ayandegan newspaper. A lot of other parties (e.g., Jebhe Democratic Melli Iran, Paykar, many members of the Fadaian) actually joined the protest rally, which the IRGC used massive violence against. The PMOI did not condemn Khomeini nor participate in the rally.
(5) JM strongly CONDEMNED the taking of Americans embassy hostage. I think JM and NA were the only political parties active in Iran at the time that actually publicly condemned the hostage taking and the invasion of the U.S. Embassy. All the leftist parties (and fundamentalist groups) supported the hostage taking.
(6) In December 1979, JM openly and strongly condemned the vf constitution as anti-democratic. JM planned a protest rally with the Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari and his party called Hezb Jomhuri Khalgh Mosalman. At the last moment Grand Ayatollah Shariatmadari changed his mind because he was afraid of bloodshed.
(7) For the Presidential election, JM mostly supported Admiral Dr. Ahmad Madani, who got 15% of the vote. Many JM members also supported Bani Sadr, who got about 75% of the votes. The IRP candidate Hasan Habibi got 4.9% of the vote.
(8) For the Majles elections, 5 JM candidates won the elections. But they were not allowed to take their seats. Instead the IRGC arrested two relatives of Dr. Sanjabi and executed Khosrow Qashqai.
(9) In the summer of 1981, JM strongly condemned the Qanon Qesas [Bill of Retribution] as reactionary and backward. The law terribly discriminated against women in testimony at courts of law, inheritance, child custody. The law prescribed cutting off of hands and feet. It called for stoning. Because of JM’s criticism of the Qanon Qesas, Khomeini called the JM as “mortad” [apostate]. JM and NA had called for a public protest rally for 25 Khordad 1360. After Khomeini’s calling JM, mortad, Bazargan went on tv and radio, and withdrew his support for the rally. So, only the JM called for the protest rally. The estimates of the people who attended the rally range from 150,000 to 1,000,000. In his memoir, Rafsanjani writes that 500,000 of those were on the streets of Tehran were IRGC and Basij members who went there to beat up supporters of JM.
(10) Since then, JM has continued to struggle against the vf regime and for democracy, civil liberties, and human rights. Many of our leaders have been severely tortured and killed. The vf regime so badly tortured our number 1 leader (Dr. Ali Ardalan) that he suffered two heart attacks under torture.
Has JM made mistakes in the post-revolution period? Of course we have. But JM was the main secular democratic party that from the very first days stood up to Khomeini as soon as Khomeini began his anti-democratic actions. JM could be criticized for not being psychics and having the power to predict the future.
What is bizarre is that monarchists — who themselves have committed crimes against humanity against the Iranian people — criticize JM for the crimes that Khomeini committed!!!!!!! The FACT is that JM opposed Khomeini’s crimes. As shown earlier in this essay, had the Shah accepted JM’s demands and policy proposals, Khomeini would not have come to power. It was Shah’s terrible decisions that helped Khomeini to come to power.
It is utterly bizarre that the monarchists whose policies caused the rise of Khomeini to power and undermined the democratic force that could have prevented the rise of Khomeini, ask the democratic forces to apologize to the monarchists!!!!!!!!
These monarchists do not see the irony. They oppress and brutalize the pro-democracy forces for 25 years. They undermine the pro-democracy forces between June 1977 and Nov 1978. They do a bunch of things that propels Khomeini to leadership. And they have never expressed their gratitude to Dr. Sanjabi and Bazargan for standing up to Khomeini and Ayatollah Khalkhali, for having saved the lives of untold monarchists after the revolution.
Instead of apologizing to JM for all the harm they inflicted on us, and instead of expressing gratitude for saving the lives of many monarchists, these monarchists are soooooooooooo pur roo that they ask democrats to apologize to them!!!!!!!!!!! For what should the pro-democracy forces have to apologize for? For struggling for independence, democracy, freedom, human rights? For providing the only solutions that could have saved Iran if the Shah accepted them on time?
In conclusion, given what was known at the times when decisions had to be made, JM consistently made the most optimal decision. Time after time, if other forces did what JM was advocating, Iran would not end up where it is today.
JM could not wave a magic wand and bring freedom and democracy to Iran. Other forces (e.g., Shah, Khomeini, PMOI, etc) had at one time or another more power than did JM. The disastrous tragedy that Iran suffers today (and since 1953) is directly the result of their decisions. In this essay, I have enumerated specific policies which were pursued by others (e.g., the Shah) which directly caused the disaster. And I have shown that JM’s policy recommendations were not adopted, which caused the disaster. I have also shown that the notion that in December 1978 or January 1979, JM could have saved Iran was simply not in the cards. I also showed that after the revolution, JM consistently made the most optimal decision.
When evaluating the actions of various parties, we should be fair. We need to avoid presentism. We should seriously think what other scenarios were possible (and horrible). It is very easy to be charlatan and easily manipulate the people with simplistic and false presentism. It is much harder to explain the complex situation that existed between June 1977 and June 1981 — fateful days when life and death decisions were made by brave and not so brave men and women.
I hope this essay helps shed some light on the decisions that were made at that time.
With hope for a democratic and free Iran.