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Different camps
There is a lot to consider in response to such questions as Why we are here 25 years after the revolution and Why we ended up with a regime far worse than the Shah's

By Arash Kamangir
March 11, 2004

Your views are not unique among the generation with which you grew up ["Hindsight"]. I am of the same generation and I have heard the same sentiments from many members of our generation. Of course, I know of those of our generation who were far more active in overthrowing the Shah's regime than you were.

What gets lost in communication with the generation that grew up after the revolution is that many of us did not wish an "Islamic Republic" to replace the autocratic monarchy. And a great many of us paid a very high price in trying to stop it from happening.

The 1979 Revolution did not begin with the article appearing in Kayhan attacking Khomeini in January 1978 or the ensuing protest of the theological students in Qum. Two months earlier, Iranian students in United States had demonstrated against the Shah's visit to the U.S. and there were no slogans showing a desire for an Islamic Republic or any form of clerical involvement in the politial arena of the country.

Nor did anyone carry a poster of Khomeini at that protest in Washington, D.C. The only posters of any clerics at that protest were those of Ayatollah Saeedi (who had already died while in Evin Prison), Ayatollah Taleghani and Ayatollah Montazeri. The latter two had both criticized Khomeini's proposition of "Velayate Faghih" at the time. Talghani never wavered from that position. Montazeri, who has always been of a weak nature, swayed towards "Velayate Faghih" after the 1979 revolution, only to recant in 1988.

In fact, most historians and analysts agree that the 1979 revolution had its roots in 1953 coup against Mossadegh. The desire and goal of all of those who were politically-active against the Shah's regime was a secular democratic rule. Yes, there were a fringe of clerics and theology students who became active against the Shah only after Shah's reforms titled "White Revolution." These were reactionary in nature, Khomeini included.

Let's not forget that many ideas espoused in the Shah's White Revolution were borrowed from what the Shah's progressive opposition had long advocated. Some of us still have pamphlets published by the Confederation of Iranian Students, printed in Germany, in 1958, which advocates the creation of a Literacy Corps and Land Reform. Thus, it is clear, that the progressive forces opposing the Shah and the reactionary forces such as Khomeini did not belong to the same camp.

Most also agree that the sudden appearance of an anti-Khomeini article in Keyhan in January 1978 was quite strange and its timing totally curious and out of place. Prior to that, though the university students in Iran had remained politically active, the theological schools and clerical leaders had largely followed a policy of "non-involvement" and "non-interference" in politics which Ayatollahs Boroujerdi, Khorasani and others had long advocated.

The 10,000 strong protest of Iranian students against the Shah in Washington, D.C., the largest demonstration held there since the Vietnam War, was a wake-up call. The West quickly realized that they could no longer rely on the Shah to provide stability in Iran and the region. It was certain that the Shah would soon be removed from Iran's political scene either via popular unrest, a military coup, foreign intervention or a combination of these. What was uncertain was what would replace the Shah's regime and among all possible options, the home-spawn secular democratic regime was not a desirable one.

Just imagine what would have pursued in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,... in all 22 Arab countries and most other Islamic nations, if suddenly, one Muslim nation, such as Iran, with vast oil and natural gas resources, would achieve a secular popular democratic regime after the Shah had been removed from power... The chain effect of popular demand in all the Middle East countries as well as Islamic nations for similar rights and government would undermine so much vested foreign interest in the world that it would totally change the geopolitical map of the world.

The solution was: "it is better to have to deal with the devil which you know than the one you do not know." And thus, suddenly, that article in Kayhan appeared, followed by a chain of events which we all know about. Does anyone wonder how, when all media were so well-controlled in the Shah's regime, such an article, out of nowhere and with no prior cause, would appear in Kayhan? Mr. Amir Taheri knows the reason and he should answer that question. There were elements in the Shah's Iran whose ties to Western interests were even stronger than the Shah himself.

Should it be a surprise that after the revolution, Kayhan became the strongest mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic and defender of Velayate Faghih? Does anyone wonder why Saddam Hussein who had given refuge to Khomeini for 15 years, suddenly decided to expel him from Iraq in 1978 and why of all places, France gave Khomeini exile and allowed him to be freely politically active while he was there. Recall that France, though it gave exile to Bakhtiar, Bani-Sadr and others but it restricted their political freedom, advising them strongly that should their activities threaten France's national interests, they would be expelled.

There is a lot to consider in response to such questions as Why we are here 25 years after the revolution and Why we ended up with a regime far worse than the Shah's. History, particularly that of Iran, cannot be properly and adequately analyzed in a letter like this, nor in a few articles. Even for those who were there and heavily involved during the 1978-1979 revolution and have managed to survive it, volumes of books would not suffice to tell the full story of what went on just in those two years.

Mr. Bani-Sadr should easily recall, from student leaders, to national figures (such as Dr. Karim Sanjabi), to representatives of various political groups who met with Khomeini in France, for how many of us, the first question we asked Khomeini was what would be the nature of involvement by clerics in a future Iranian government? And to each of us, Khomeini in a calm and what appeared as a sincere tone, said, "We'll all return to the hozehs (theological schools)." The trend after the revolution was the exact contrary.

.................... Peef Paff spam!

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