Terrorism – The Common Worry of Everyone, Including Iran
IRAN has been the bogey country of the West since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and its public demonization by the USA.
Anyone of a certain age will remember the portrayal of its then leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Western media as all that was “wrong with Islam”. Matters weren’t improved in 1989 by the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy and in 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulted from Muslim anger over the novel. The Iranian government backed the fatwa against Rushdie until 1998, when the succeeding government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said it no longer supported the killing of Rushdie.
But all is never as it seems, particularly when the US and UK’s right wing press is involved, and by 1991 Iraq had replaced Iran as the West’s Bête Noire. Comical in all of this was that many Americans believed Iraq and Iran were actually the same country! The fact that today the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia all want to either bomb or control Iran, speaks volumes for its power and status in the Middle East. Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranian revolution put an end to the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces with a programme of modernization and Westernization coupled with heavy repression of dissent. Persia, as Iran was known before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, and the country has long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam.
A brief political history of modern Iran is perhaps warranted. In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected as the prime minister. He became enormously popular after he nationalized Iran’s petroleum industry and oil reserves. But he was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first (and not the last) time the US had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War. After the coup, the Shah became increasingly autocratic and Iran entered a decades’ long period of close relations with the USA. While the Shah increasingly modernised Iran and claimed to retain it as a fully secular state, arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, the SAVAK, were used to crush all forms of political opposition. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah’s White Revolution, and publicly denounced the government. In 1963 Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964, Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah sent him into exile. In 1974, the economy of Iran was experiencing double digit inflation, and despite many large projects to modernize the country, corruption was rampant and caused large amounts of waste. By 1976, an economic recession led to increased unemployment, especially among millions of young people who had migrated to the cities of Iran looking for construction jobs during the boom years of the early 1970s. By the late 1970s, many of these people opposed the Shah’s regime and began to organize and join the protests against it. An Islamic Revolution began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah. After a year of strikes and demonstrations paralyzing the country and its economy, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country and Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran in February 1979, forming a new government. After holding a referendum, in April 1979, Iran officially became an Islamic Republic. Then on November 4, 1979, a group of students seized the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 52 personnel and citizens hostage, after the US refused to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Iran to face trial in the court of the new regime. Attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate for the release of the hostages, and a failed rescue attempt, helped force Carter out of office and brought Ronald Reagan to power. On Carter’s final day in office, the last hostages were finally set free as a result of the Algiers Accords. Following the Iran–Iraq War, in 1989, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. In 1997, Rafsanjani was succeeded by the reformist Mohammad Khatami, whose government attempted to make the country more democratic.
Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran on June 15, 2013, and his victory improved the relations of Iran with many other countries. Now with warfare raging across the Middle East, most neutral observers view Iran as a necessary bulwark against ISIS and the dirty tricks of the USA, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Against that background Iran’s constitutional Leader of the Revolution Sayyid Ali Khamenei has now written an unprecedented second open letter to young people in the West. Entitled: Today Terrorism is Our Common Worry, he speaks clearly and with a hand of friendship to the West, but is also openly critical in the role the USA has played in the creation of ISIS and the brutality of Zionist Israel. The letter, a condemnation of terrorism, can also be seen as a plea for self-reflection and clarification of misreported facts at a time of heightened tensions, bloodshed, war, occupation, hate. Here is his unedited letter in full. I recommend you read it at least twice!
Nic Outterside is a widely acclaimed writer and editor. He is the winner of more than a dozen major press awards, including Scottish Journalist of the Year (twice), North of England Journalist of the Year and the recipient of a special award for investigative journalism.