Thursday, September 4, 2008

A review of Islamic revolution- Part 4

Multiple and comprehensive intelligence reports by American embassy and CIA in Tehran provided US government with detailed information about the mood of society especially, the young generation towards current conditions in the country. These reports indicated increasing tendency towards religious sentiments among young Iranians while emphasizing incompatibility of “democracy” with current level of understanding of the concept among them. University students were mentioned as a symbol of this change in mood towards a more religious society. From what we can see in the reports, the intelligence study has been mostly conducted in Capital City of Tehran and in a part of this report we read:

“A constant theme in the desires of involved youth is for a more "democratic" state. However, they are not able to specify what this implies for Iran, other than generalized statements about greater "freedom" and openness. Democracy is an alien concept in Iranian history; it is a western invention that, without considerable change and adaptation, is not really relevant to the needs of Iran. However, the young people of the country see the affluence and freedom of their western peers and believe that the adoption of a similar political system will result in the same perquisites in Iran.”

A bit further in the report we read about growing Islamic sentiments among youth who prefer “traditional” way of living and “consider women just an object of beauty which, belongs to bed” that has been clarified earlier in the same report:

“There has been a noticeable and unexpected growth of .interest in religion among a small segment of the youth of Iran, especially those studying and teaching in the Universities. The Islamic students union is strong on all university campuses and attendance at the Tehran University Mosque is continually increasing. The increased interest in religion is basically conservative in nature and a reaction against Westernization, rather than a positive renaissance of religion on the campuses. A small number of students have also embraced religious orthodoxy as a means of criticizing the Shah and 1-1 4.s method of rule in Iran. Criticisms of the Shah which might be unacceptable in a secular context, can often be voiced under cover of an interest in strengthening the role of religion in Iranian life.

The vicissitudes of Western technology and the inroads made by Western culture have led many students to turn to religious conservatism and orthodoxy as a reaction against the trials of modernization and urbanization. Consequently, the growth of religious consciousness is not expected to lead to renewed interest in a Pan-Islamic movement among Iranian students or faculty. Not only does the usual Sunni-.Shi f ite split militate against the growth of Pan-Islamism in Iran, but the basically conservative, inward-looking, anti foreign basis for the revival of interest in religion in Iran among the young educated classes precludes the new interest from becoming a positive force for modernization or change in the country. It is necessary to re-emphasize that this growth of interest is on a small scale and affects • an extremely limited percentage of the student body. It is interesting, however, as an indication of one of the possible paths reaction against Westernization and modernization can take in the Iranian society.”

It is obvious by now that the “possible path” for the society which, was noticed by American intelligence among Iranian youth on a “small scale” became the actual path which, ruined not only the future of our nation, but also became a menace for the region to create a rush for western conventional armament so that during years of 1990 to 1994, a third of conventional arms produced in the world to be sold to three countries of Persian Gulf (Kuwait, UAE and Saudi) with a value of $67 billions. The report looks at the implications for foreign policy of United States:

“IMPLICATIONS FOR U. S. FOREIGN POLICY The attitudes of Iranian youth are important to our policy toward Iran because there is every indication that these attitudes will persist even as youth grows older. Even those who join the system and appear to be co-opted often have in fact, submerged rather than abandoned their earlier feelings. The attitudes which this report has discussed at length may be summarized for the present purpose as follows:

1. Acceptance of or resignation to the present situation, for the time being.

2. A strong yearning for . democratization, civil liberties, and a general opening and freeing of Iranian life.

3. A desire among a substantial portion of Iranian youth not to see the Pahlavi dynasty - with its present power .... continue after the present Shah, even though the concept of a Monarch who reigns but does not rule, has broader acceptance.

4. A powerful urge for greater national self-respect, independence, and realization of identify. If, as is our premise here, we must have a greater sensitivity to these feelings , whether open or covert, in Iran's future leaders , our assets in so doing are the admiration of young Iran for American ideals and democracy and for the openness, vitality, and dynamism of our society and our national life. Our hindrances are the very close identification of the United States with the Shah and with both the structure and the methods of his rule.

There is no noticeable feeling among young, urban Iranians that the United States encourages, or even approves in principle of, democratization in Iran. Instead there is a general feeling, that the United States prizes democracy for itself, but regards Iranians as a people unable to implement democracy, and in any case finds a totalitarian regime in Iran easier to work with or to manipulate. A number of possible events in Iran including the actual achievement of gradual democratization, could bring to positions of real power persons who had acquired these attitudes toward the United States in their youth. It is therefore imperative that we attack the bases of these attitudes wherever possible.”

As it can be seen from these few paragraphs, according to this report, Iranian society is not compatible with democracy for it is a “western invention” and has no relevance to the “needs of Iran” but in conclusion, it complains because Iranians can see through it! Through out history of relations between Iran and United States, especially during Kennedy era, US government has been putting a lot of stress on reform and even, in one occasion, insist on appointment of Dr. Amini as Prime Minister in order to carry out required reforms. But at the same time, US politicians did not agree with Shah’s argument about introduction of democracy in Iranian society in a slower pace and after educational and social reforms matured, while in this intelligence report they talk about “gradual democratization” which is unclear how. One may think that the authors of such intelligence reports are either extremely confused or trying hard to distort the truth about some issues.

In the same report, the “circles” of Iranian elite and how people got into this circle has been thoroughly studied and educated Iranians who were absorbed in this circle after their return from western nations in order to participate in the process of progress are labeled “opportunist” because they just integrated themselves in the system and thought of nothing but making money. In one report in 1972 Khomeini is compared with religious leaders of Constitutional revolution by stating that, the religious leaders of Constitutional revolution supported the reforms to limit the power of Shah in 1906 and Khomeini opposed the reforms that increased the power of Shah in 1960. The year 1960 of course seems to be incorrect as the actual confrontation between Khomeini and Iranian government over the suggested reforms by Shah happened in 1963.

From this statement, one may think that the reforms were about increasing the role and power of monarch through legal means and creation of new laws but in reality, all the articles of reform were related to social and welfare issues to help the move towards equal spread of wealth, health and education in the society and getting Iranian women more involved in the politics of the nation. It is interesting to know that internal opposition to Shah (mainly Tudeh party and Jebhe Melli) were trying to discredit these reforms as a show with no real effect which had been ordered by Washington because Kennedy administration was pressing the Shah for social reforms while US government, in their secret communications, considered them a tool to increase Shah’s power that Khomeini was opposed to! Portraying Khomeini like a true revolutionary champion for the cause of justice who attempts to fight the power of a dictatorial monarch is not limited to this document.

A couple of years earlier, American embassy in a report after death of Ayatollah Hakim in 1970, shows a lot of interest in the role of Iranian government in keeping Khomeini away from becoming the leader of Shi’ite world while, according to the embassy, he enjoys strong support among “Ulama” and “bazaaris”. It is unclear how American embassy has come up with that conclusion at that time while activities on behalf of Khomeini in bazaar was not evident until a few years later near late 1970’s. Even today, “Iran studies” book in the library of US congress ( is propagating the same kind of information about Khomeini’s status among Iranians in early 1970’s:

“Khomeini, in exile in Iraq, continued to issue antigovernment statements, to attack the shah personally, and to organize supporters. In a series of lectures delivered to his students in An Najaf in 1969 and 1970 and later published in book form under the title of Velayat-e Faqih (The Vice Regency of the Islamic Jurist), he argued that monarchy was a form of government abhorrent to Islam, that true Muslims must strive for the establishment of an Islamic state, and that the leadership of the state belonged by right to the faqih, or Islamic jurist. A network of clerics worked for Khomeini in Iran, returning from periods of imprisonment and exile to continue their activities. Increasing internal difficulties in the early 1970s gradually won Khomeini a growing number of followers.”

Dr. Musa Al-Musavi-Esfahani, the son of grand Ayatollah Musavi-Esfahani and an Ayatollah himself, had spent a lot of time with Khomeini while in Najaf. In his interviews with Shahla Haeri in Harvard Oral History Project of Iran, Ayatollah Musavi-Esfahani says that Khomeini’s older son, Mustafa insisted on keeping his father away from politics through controlling all his meetings with those who came to visit him. Dr. Musavi-Esfahani has explained how Khomeini was later dragged back into political activities after Mustafa died. He claims that the people who were interested in this matter included Ahmad Khomeini and Mohammad Montazeri who was in contact with Libyan government. This issue raises another question about the death of Mustafa, which Mr. Musavi-Esfahani believes has been inspired by Ahmad Khomeini himself. Later in revolution days, it became clearer that both Mohammad Montazeri and Ahmad Khomeini had close relations with Sadiq Ghtobzadeh who was also in contact with Libyans and had received financial assistance from Libyans for his revolution!

This will remind us about the main and fundamental question on what mysterious force was at work to gradually pave the way for Khomeini to move to center stage even in presence of someone like Ayatollah Khoee who was the official “Pishva” of Shi’ite (as American Embassy refers to it)? From the murder of Ayatollah Shamsabadi and his family members to death of Mustafa Khomeini to disappearance of Musa Sadr in Libya and forcing Khomeini out of Iraq to go to Paris, there must have been a lot of “coincidences” involved in span of a few years to brew a “Islamic Revolution”.

To be continued..

A review of Islamic revolution- Part 3

Activities of Islamic groups like "Fadaian Islam" (or devotees of Islam) against Iranian government goes back to the days of Kadjar dynasty in which they assassinated Naser-ol-din shah of Kadjar through directions and teachings of seyyed Jamal-o-din Asadabadi (or Afghani), who was also known for his attempts to create a establishment with Islamic ideology in Egypt called Islamic Unity Front, in order to unite all Islamic nations. Seyyed Jamal was a mysterious character who had visited many places in and out of the region and had also spent some time in England where he became familiar and stayed with important British figures there.

Even though seyyed Jamal was not successful in Egypt but, he managed to create the foundation of a movement through his students which was later established by Hassan al-Banna and became known as "Muslim Brotherhood" while "Fadaian Islam" practically started with him as a mentor. Fadian Islam carried out many other assassinations through out their history which one of them was assassination of Hassanali Mansour, a technocrat who became Prime Minister in Iran before late Amir-Abbas Hoveyda.

Another Islamic group which was founded more recently in Iran was "Motalefeh" which was made mainly by bazaris and Islamic clerics form which most of them were from Tehran and Isfahan region. This group proved to be more deadly and radical in their views and actions than others. In their first known violent move in cooperation with "Fadian Islam", Motalefeh killed ayatollah Shamsabadi through one of their supporters, Mehdi Hashemi, around Isfahan. This murder was carried out over differences between two groups of clerics regarding a book called "shahid-e javid" (or "Immortal Martyr") which was denounced by ayatollah Shamsabadi while Khomeini and his staunch followers including ayatollah Montazari had praised it. "Immortal Martyr" was a new version of Imam Hussein's story written by a cleric from Qum and speaking against that was considered as opposition to Khomeini whom some of high ranking mullahs were trying to promote as universal leader of Shi'ite sect.

"Immortal Martyr" promoted violent revolt of imam Hussein against Yazid as a doctrine for worldwide struggle against injustice which later became subject of teaching by people like Dr. Shariati in his books and places like "Husseiniye Ershad". Ayatollah Shamsabadi had openly argued against it as a tool to create difference in Islamic world and put Shi'ites against Sunnis. He was condemned to death by a group of mullahs and non-mullah supporters of Khomeini who would have a part in creation of Islamic Republic later on. This event took place in 1976 and Mehdi Hashemi, brother of ayatollah Montazeri's son in law was arrested shortly afterwards and jailed to be freed during revolution days in 1979. Mehdi Hashemi who was a wealthy farmer was also involved in drug trades and had done a lot more for Islamic revolution and Islamic movement in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria prior to this event. He was the connection between Ghtobzadeh and internal elements of Islamic movement and flow of money from bazaaris to Khomeini was mostly through him. Hashemi's arrest by SAVAK did not lead to any more arrest which indicate either a soft approach on this issue (for whatever reason) by SAVAK or lack of will to move in that direction because otherwise, many people who were involved in making the original decision about that murder would end up in cage instead of plotting for revolution a couple of years later.

While the grounds for Islamic revolution was being prepared by supporters of Khomeini in Iran which also had infiltrated the government agencies, relations between Iran and western nations with leadership of United States, despite apparent sincere and public exchanges, was not in greatest shape because of disagreements over the issue of oil. Declassified documents of communications between different US government divisions clearly indicate a double face policy regarding oil dispute between Iranian government and oil consortium. In these documents we can see how US government always advised Iranians that they have no control over the oil companies while expressed concern that lack of cooperation between Iranian government and oil companies may cause deterioration of relation with United States and other western nations! United States even rejected the suggestion by Shah to buy Iranian oil directly at cheaper price in exchange for US products in order to make sure there will be no balance of payments with the excuse that these matters should be done through private contractors according to US laws while they had same arrangements with Canada and Venezuela at same exact time!

Multiple documents reveal that United States also had great concerns over close relations between Iran and Soviet Union and had warned Iranian government over that while ignoring Iranian government's information regarding upcoming "changes" in Afghanistan and possible take over of that country by a Soviet friendly government. Iran's negative position towards the situation in Bahrain regarding replacement of British forces by Americans in 1972 and insisting on the role of Iran and Saudi Arabia in taking the security of the Persian Gulf in their own hands was viewed with suspicion even after Shah expressed his agreement of keeping a small presence of American forces as a deterrent in the face of heavy activities of Soviet Union in Indian Ocean. US government was aware that their strategic national and security interests in Iran had been effectively used as a balancing factor by Iranian government against Iran's relation with Soviet Union and to push for more support from United States. While US government took advantage of the information provided to them about the region through Shah, the increasing influence of Iranian government which became more evident as time passed, and also ambitions of Shah to make Iran a regional power and an important element in politics of the world through use of the wealth earned from selling oil, was not very pleasant to them.

After US government terminated their military grants to Iran in 1964, Iran continued its dependence to US military equipments for its military expansion programs which was to support industrialization of the nation as far as security and also to enforce Iran's international rights and guarantee her territorial integrity in case of any aggression by surrounding nations. Total military purchases of Iran from United States was about $11.2 billion from year 1950 to year 1979 from which about $10.7 billion was delivered and from that about $1.4 billion was part of US military grants to Iranian government. Most of the military purchases were based on credit with an interest of 6.25% while the rest was paid for in hard cash. During the years that Iran was making those military purchases, the economic growth continued to be one of the highest in the world ranging from 8% to 12%, which indicate a healthy economy.

During these years, Shah continued to press oil consortium for more revenue to satisfy the funding needed for different development programs and expansion of military might while western observers and politicians always raised concerns over the speed of development programs and the magnitude of military purchases. Increasing presence of Soviet Union in Iran through economic agreement over steel mill project and also purchase of military equipments from them which, required contact between Iranian military officers with Soviets, caused some worries for US officials. US government became concerned about compromising the security of the secrets of their advanced military technology that Shah had requested for, or at least, they expressed such concerns even if it was just an excuse for grievance.

Through out those years, while US government tried to use the policy of "carrot and stick" to exert control over Iranian government by linking the availability of their military aid requested by Shah to cooperation of Iranian government with consortium, they found themselves in a situation that same policy was played on them through "independent foreign policy" of Iran under which Iranian government implemented their diversification policies in the field of military and economy. Shah in his communications with US officials always stressed that Iran was counting on friendship of US government in case if Soviet Union aggression against Iran but he insisted that it would not be wise for Iran to depend on US to come to his assistance for example if Iraqi government decided to make some problems for Iran. In response to what he would do if US did not or was not able to help Iran in case of Soviets aggression, Shah said that he would use the policy of "scorched territory" if he had to in case Iranian forces could not deter the enemy.

There is ample amount of documents to suggest that international oil consortium used security of flow of oil from Persian Gulf as an element of pressure especially on Iranian government through western nations, to curb their demands for increasing revenue from oil. NATO with 90% of its oil consumption coming from Persian gulf was one of the most important interested parties as far as continuous and secure flow of oil from Persian Gulf. US government predicted the demand for oil in western world, including NATO, would grow quickly in future and showed a great deal of sensitivity towards the negotiation between Iranian government and oil companies with a tendency to support the oil companies. During these years, the question of "change" in Iranian government and future of Iran after Shah became an issue of concern for US government and a comprehensive intelligence research was initiated to study the possible outcomes if Shah disappeared and in one occasion, in 1971, US state department asks American embassy in Tehran to clarify what would happen if Shah was assassinated or died of a sickness.

Comparison of Reza Shah the Great and Mohammad Reza Shah the Great with two Kadjar kings from which one went to exile and other was assassinated (above), and comparison of Khomeini with high ranking mullahs during Iranian Constitutional Revolution (below).

To be continued....