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.
There is probably no government in the world that has done greater harm and damage to the Muslims of the world than the one that presents itself as the Guardians of Makkah and Madinah. Yet much that is commonplace about this regime among those familiar with the Saudi government is little known elsewhere because people hesitate to say it in public. These issues need to be aired for the consideration of the Ummah, particularly at a time when the Saudis are again playing a deeply damaging role in the Ummah, in their support of the US campaigns in Iraq, against Islamic Iran and in the Middle East as a whole.
Much of this role depends, of course, on the Saudis’ financial power. However, the financial affairs of the Saudi royals are largely controlled by non-Muslims, especially “Christians” from the Middle East, and more particularly the “Christians” of Lebanon. That would not be a problem if this clannish kingdom were to abandon its claim of being the protector of the Haramain al-Shareefain and the cornerstone of Islam in modern days. However, the fact that the wealth of the Ummah is handed over to the control of people who clearly have no interest is using it for the benefit of the Ummah – at a time when many in the Ummah are in desperate need – is clearly incompatible with such a claim.
Moreover, even where the Saudis have put some of their wealth into the Islamic movement, it has been only as a distraction that has limited the freedom of action of the Islamic movement. Anyone who has been active in the Islamic movement knows that the money that comes from the Saudis to Islamic groups and organizations is ultimately designed to keep them on a tight leash and effectively thwart the higher ambitions of the Islamic movement. The petrodollars (and riyals and pounds) coming out of the Saudi establishment have, to a large extent, tied the tongues and silenced the voices of revolutionary Islamic movements. The unspoken word is: Saudi Arabia is the graveyard of the du‘at.
Saudi financial support for the Ikhwan was a no-lose situation: if the uprising succeeded, it would have installed an “Islamic” regime that (the Saudis hoped) would be anti-Iran and would support the Saudis; and if it failed, as it did, thanks to the Ba’athist regime’s brutal response (up to 20,000 people in Hama were massacred), Muslim public opinion around the world would criticise the Islamic State of Iran for its links with Syria
Even where the Saudis have appeared to support Islamic movements, as when they apparently supported an attempt at an Islamic uprising in Syria a generation ago, they have had ulterior motives. At that time, as we all may recall, the Islamic Revolution and State in Iran were in full swing, and the Syrian Ikhwan, involved in the Hama uprising in February 1982 against a regime that was anti-Western and had relations with Iran, were overtly anti-Shi‘i. Saudi financial support for the Ikhwan was a no-lose situation: if the uprising succeeded, it would have installed an “Islamic” regime that (the Saudis hoped) would be anti-Iran and would support the Saudis; and if it failed, as it did, thanks to the Ba’athist regime’s brutal response (up to 20,000 people in Hama were massacred), Muslim public opinion around the world would criticise the Islamic State of Iran for its links with Syria. The latter is precisely what happened; to this day, many Ikhwan supporters refuse to support Iran, citing the Hama massacre, but ignoring the question of why Iran should have supported a movement that regarded Shi‘i Muslims as kuffar. Such unfortunately are the situations that arise once the poison of sectarianism contaminates the Ummah.
Over two decades later, the same sectarianism is fueling the chaos in Iraq, and this time the Saudi princes and politicians are no longer operating on their own. Now they are just a part of the team put together by masterminds of American imperial colonialism, to manipulate the situation in Iraq to their advantage, despite their failure to assert control militarily. And what was true of the Syrian case is certainly true today as well: that Islamic Iran is the main target of Israeli and American plotting. The US invasion of Iraq was a central plank of the establishment of an American military presence in every country bordering Iran. The US’s local interests in Iraq apart – it will not ignore the opportunity to take control of Iraq’s oil wealth – its longer-term object is to bring down the Islamic State and strike a massive blow against the wider Islamic movement. But the war against Islamic self-determination has not been without price, which is catching up with the Washingtonian duopoly of Republicans and Democrats. Both are equally committed to this war against the Islamic movement, but neither knows how to do it without spending ten billion dollars and sustaining hundreds of casualties (killed and injured) every month, with no end in sight.
The Aal-e Saud are central to this new round of warfare, as plotted by conservative and not-so-conservative thinktanks in the US. Iraq is just one of many places where American-controlled Saudi Arabia is working to destabilize the Islamic movement and the Islamic state, and to damage Sunni-Shi’i relations. In Lebanon, the Saudis are backing the ineffectual government of Sa‘d al-Hariri, Fu‘ad Siniora, and Samir Ja’ja’, which last summer could not even defend its own territory and sovereignty, and is hanging on in power thanks to United Nations forces, promises of funds from the West, and – most important of all – the Saudi-American promises that Lebanon will be taken out of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. The Saudis are also trying to prise Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement, and Hizbullah, the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, from the influence of Islamic Iran. Bandar al-Sultan, the pivotal figure in its relations with the US, has expressed willingness to funnel Saudi resources to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Popular Resistance Committees and any other Palestinian faction that is willing to “jump the Iranian ship” and join the Saudi bandwagon. (This is, remember, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington who boasted on national television of his cooperation with the CIA.) It is not clear whether our Palestinian brothers, concerned as they are with immediate problems, are aware of the larger picture; we pray that they will not fall into the Saudi trap.
In the mean time, we also hope that our brothers in the Islamic state, and those elsewhere who are aware of the significance of the Islamic Revolution in Iran for contemporary Islamic history, are wise to the agenda of ‘Abdullah, Bandar and company. The voices that are carping against president Mahmud Ahmadinejad from within the Muslim world are, whether they realize it or not, part of the Saudi-American orchestra.
In the mean time, we also hope that our brothers in the Islamic state, and those elsewhere who are aware of the significance of the Islamic Revolution in Iran for contemporary Islamic history, are wise to the agenda of ‘Abdullah, Bandar and company. The voices that are carping against president Mahmud Ahmadinejad from within the Muslim world are, whether they realize it or not, part of the Saudi-American orchestra. The Saudis’ hands are anything but clean in the Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi theaters. Many Muslims seem to have forgotten the Saudis’ initial involvement in the Lebanese civil war on the side of the pro-zionist Phalange forces and the Saudi hostility to Arab solidarity through their involvement in Yemeni affairs throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The Saudis also played a crucial intermediary role between Washington and Baghdad when Saddam Hussain’s Ba‘athist regime in Iraq went to war against the nascent Islamic state under the leadership of Imam Khomeini (ra). Have the Muslims forgotten the routine pronouncements of takfir by Saudi-sponsored religious officials against other Muslims, even as they themselves worked hand-in-glove with the imperialists and zionists? Not to mention the systematic prejudice and discrimination that oppressed and hard-working Muslims from Africa and Asiaface working in the Saudi kingdom, even as Western expatriates are treated like royalty? And let us not forget the Saudis’ long-established practice of manipulating the price of oil at the behest of American ‘educated’ advisers in the corridors of OPEC.
Little wonder that many Muslims regard the Saudis as no better than the zionists; and that the West regards them as models of the ‘moderation’ they would like from all Muslims.