One of the first messages to have been proclaimed by the Islamic Revolution and the line of the Imam was that the Islamic Revolution in Iran is neither of eastern nor of western affiliation.
One of the first messages to have been proclaimed by the Islamic Revolution and the line of the Imam was that the Islamic Revolution in Iran is neither of eastern nor of western affiliation. The Islamic Revolution took down the pro-American Shah, part of the global capitalist cartel we call ‘the West’, without any assistance or inspiration from the opposing Cold War bloc, led by the former Soviet Union and China. The embryonic Islamic government wanted to make absolutely clear that it was determined to continue in an autonomous direction, free of any outside interference or imposition. This commitment to genuine independence, essential for any Islamic enterprise, was perhaps the main reason that international powers came together to oppose the Revolution and try to destroy it. The Imam and the committed, freedom-loving Muslims who followed him, stood their ground and fought bravely through eight long years of war imposed by these united enemies. Hundreds of thousands of Iranian Muslims were martyred for the survival of the Islamic state, as Muslims anywhere would willingly have done in the same situation. It just happened that these Muslims in Iran were the first to break new ground in Islamic self-governance.
Even as Imam Khomeini and the mujahideen fought to repel aggression and secure the Islamic state, there were those who argued for an accommodation with the US. Their argument was that Iran had to recognize its status as a mediocre nation-state, without the power to compete with the superpowers of the time, the Soviet Union and the United States. The superpowers may have been equally reprehensible and criminal, but Iran has to be realistic and align with one of them, which being the case, it should accept alliance with the United States. Leading this camp were such established figures as Ibrahim Yazdi and his circle of pseudo-nationalists and semi-liberal ‘Islamists’. At the time they were marginalised by Imam Khomeini and his firm revolutionary line, but they – and more importantly, the attitudes they promoted – never went away. Such ideas remained commonplace in certain circles, and have since the Imam’s death made a considerable comeback, becoming increasingly influential and vocal over time.
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.
After the passing of Imam Khomeini, this writer was surprised to find an official at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran arguing, albeit diplomatically, discreetly and with the best of intentions, that US-Iranian rapprochement was the only way forward for the government in Tehran. Since then, it seems that most officials in the Foreign Ministry have become convinced, however grudgingly, that the Islamic Republic must "normalize" its relations with Washington. Time and again, word emerges of little-reported meetings between officials in the Iranian Foreign Ministry, some of them very high up, and American officials. Sometimes they are reported to have met in Cyprus; at other times, in other European countries. Most recently, we have heard of a meeting in Switzerland about two months ago between Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the Foreign Minister of Iran, no less, and Congressman Joseph Biden, who sits on one of the influential committees in the US Congress. This one-on-one meeting between two influential personalities in the anti-Israeli government in Tehran and the pro-Israeli government in Washington was held away from public awareness in both Iran and the United States; evidently, those in positions to decide these things do not feel that the time is yet right for such matters to become subjects of public discussion. Nonetheless, the fact the meeting took place is significant.
Lest anyone jump to conclusions we make clear that there is no objection to any Muslim anywhere in the world talking to any anti-Muslim anywhere else in the world; Musa (saw) talked to the Pharaoh, for example. But the secrecy in which these contacts are taking place is worrying. Musa’s meeting with the Pharaoh has been recorded for all time by the Qur’an; but here we appear to have a clandestine communication. About what, we may well ask? – at a time when the US is ruled by its most aggressive, nationalist government ever; when the US government remains of the opinion that Islamic Iran is part of some mythical "axis of evil" that it is determined to destroy; that the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is being used to raise precisely the sort of questions over Iran’s nuclear program that were previously raised against Saddam Hussain. At such a time, one is bound to wonder and worry about what Iranian foreign ministry officials may be discussing with representatives of the greatest enemy that Islamic state faces.
Would the hundreds of thousands of martyrs who gave their lives to protect the Islamic state endorse these overtures towards the US? Would the late Imam Khomeini approve of this approach? Should we, who have virtually lived and died with this Islamic-centered Revolution, keep silent and not demand to know of these officials: what on earth are you doing? Why? On what basis? And for what purpose?