By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

Iran endures: The Islamic Revolution at 43

February 1, 2022 - 20:57

“I state with certainty that Islam shall humiliate the superpowers.” —Imam Khomeini1

As the strength, status and significance of the erstwhile mighty United States continues to erode at an ever accelerating pace, the country seems intent upon “locking itself into a three-way struggle with China and Russia” that it cannot win.2 Against his geopolitical backdrop, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endured and is celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, making a mockery of the plethora of western predictions of its imminent demise. Understanding this remarkable persistence Iran has displayed against all odds, as well as the endless efforts exerted by the arrogant powers, presents a conundrum for the West.

First of all, allow me to extend my congratulations to the Iranian people on this auspicious occasion commemorating the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Over four decades of independence from U.S. domination is quite an astonishing accomplishment, indeed, and not something that to date has been satisfactorily explained by western pundits.  Undoubtedly, there are many factors to consider in any attempt to analyze this achievement: economic, military, social, political, geographic, educational, historical, and cultural, just to name a few. Exceeding all these in significance, however, are the religious or spiritual dimensions, namely those contained within Islam, which, in my opinion, is the weft on the shuttle passing through the warp on the loom of nationhood upon which the resilient national fabric of Iran has been woven.

The preeminence of Islam among the cohesive forces forming and maintaining the Iranian national identity and its longevity is often overlooked, discounted, downplayed or even denied in the secular-oriented West and, at best, is certainly not well understood.  In most studies of the Islamic Revolution by western scholars, the political, social and economic factors are emphasized in order to conform to their cultural tendency towards placing the Islamic Revolution in a secular, socio-economic model of revolution. Some studies stress the “J-curve” of continuously rising expectations followed by a sharp economic decline, and others point to the malaise and disorientation produced by rapid social change.3 As these approaches yield unsatisfactory results even for understanding the dynamics of the Islamic Revolution itself, they fail all the more so to provide any insight whatsoever into the resiliency and endurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  As a consequence, there has been a long list of predictions by western scholars of the imminent demise of the Islamic government.  In fact, making such predictions has taken on the character of an annual exercise among western academics, although Iran’s longevity should in itself suffice to cause these scholars to rethink their axioms and assumptions.

Of course there are geopolitical factors that have contributed to the coherency of the Islamic Republic as well, such as the 8-year-long imposed war, which, much to the chagrin of the arrogant powers supporting the aggressor, triggered an outburst of national unity, volunteering spirit and self-sacrificing determination on the part of the Iranian people to secure their fledgling Islamic nation against the western-backed onslaught. “It is Saddam Hussein who on behalf of America attacked us,” Imam Khomeini noted on the first day of the war, “and if we respond to him, it will never have anything to do with the Iraqi nation, which is our brother.”4  Likewise, the economic sanctions, primarily imposed by the US for over the past 40 years, not only have failed to achieve the perpetrator’s nefarious geopolitical goals, but to the contrary, have compelled Iran to become a self-reliant nation, and, as a corollary, a formidable regional power.

Islam is the common thread tying together numerous nations in the West Asian region, and Iran’s version of Islamic government and revolution serve as a paradigm for others to follow, thus making Iran a natural for regional leadership. As one scholar noted, “the Revolution brought forth a new system of government, an unprecedented design that struck an instant chord with Muslims worldwide.”5  Among these countries are six of the fifteen nations of the former Soviet Union, namely Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, all of which have substantial Muslim populations that suffered some degree of persecution under the anti-Islamic policies of the communists.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a renaissance of Islam in the 1990s in these countries, and people, including non-Muslims, were drawn to Islam for its teachings of establishing justice and fighting against oppression.6 

Imam Khomeini had sent a letter to the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in which he pointed out that “the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world can easily fill the vacuum of religious faith in Russia.”7 As a result, Iran has found itself in a religious leadership role in the region for some three decades, propagating the teachings of true Mohammadan Islam to the eager masses.  Naturally, the secularized west pushed back against this Islamic awakening with a two-pronged attack: On the one hand there was the godless globalization promulgated by the secular western capitalists, and on the other was the fanatical Wahhabi cult nurtured and funded by the Saudis who at the time were awash in petrodollars.8  “The consensus seems to be that globalization marks a continuation of the basic dynamic of Western domination and hegemony dating back hundreds of years,” states one author.9

Today, Iran has advanced far beyond the level of what might have been termed an itinerant nation-state preacher to that of an ascending power, replete with a diversifying economy,10 sophisticated technological capabilities and military prowess, 11 as well as diplomatic competence second to none in the West Asian region with “the means and focus to realize any policy objective it sets for itself.”12 China, itself rapidly advancing to superpower status and already outpacing the US by several benchmarks, has recognized the benefit of entering into a 25-year strategic cooperative agreement with Iran,13 effectively confirming the Islamic Republic’s ranking as a regional power.  Adding to this is Iran’s recent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose member countries include economic heavyweights China, Russia and India, and constitute one-third of the global land mass and one-quarter of the global GDP.14  The significance of this diplomatic accomplishment can be inferred by the fact that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi passed on attending the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September 2021 in favor of attending the SCO meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.15

Iran’s courageous resistance against US hegemony is not simply laudable, but inspirational for peoples everywhere who are suffering from what might be termed postmodern, neocolonial oppression by the US and its allies. The devastation caused by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Washington’s ongoing support for the Zionist regime, has underscored Iran’s regional importance and confirmed the Islamic Republic’s leading role in defending the weak against the powerful.16  The diplomatic successes mentioned previously—admission to the SCO, the 25-year cooperative agreement with China—along with the country’s military triumphs in defeating the western-backed, takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq, broadcast a strong message of the power of Islamic resistance to the World at large.  Furthermore, Iran’s unwavering support for both Shi’ah and Sunni Islamic resistance movements, for example Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine,17 sends a loud and clear message of Muslim unity to the arrogant powers, effectively countering and nullifying their efforts to create and exploit sectarian fault lines.

Virtually unmentioned in the western corporate media is that Iran, since the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, has hosted millions of refugees fleeing their homelands due to protracted wars and conflict. As a result of the Iranian government’s progressive and inclusive humanitarian policies, which include access to health, education and employment opportunities, over 90 percent of these refugees live in host communities side by side with Iranians.18 Compare this with the treatment of Afghan refugees in the US where a scant 125,000 are anticipated to be resettled in the fiscal year from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 202219 following the September 2021 Kabul withdrawal debacle, joining the approximate 130,000 Afghans currently residing there.20

Instead of access to health, education and employment opportunities as in Iran, these new refugees to the US are confronted with demeaning Islamophobic vitriol, and even suspected of being terrorists.  One Republican lawmaker from Texas even referred to the Afghan resettlement program as a “Trojan horse” for terrorism; others have suggested that applicants for asylum be required to renounce Islam and Sharia;21 at least one has demanded a moratorium on resettlement activity. As of late last year, some 20,000 Afghans remained housed at five US military bases with almost 10,000 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.22 I have heard from one reliable source involved in resettlement activities that Afghan children are being separated from their families. Such is how the oppressed Afghans, who are victims of Washington’s geopolitical machinations, are being welcomed to the US.

“It is critical that we defend the cultural and ideological citadels of Islam with all our hearts and with utmost bravery,” wrote Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar in April 2014, “and these are none other than the spiritual dimensions of the Islamic Revolution.”23 Congratulations once again to Iranians and Muslims worldwide on this momentous occasion, but even as we celebrate this 43rd year of victory, we must remain perpetually prepared to defend the Revolution against the enemies’ satanic plots against Islam and Iran.

Endnotes

1 Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, Spiritual Dimensions of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, trans. Blake Archer Williams (Lion of Najaf, 2017), 13.

2 Allan Behm, “The decline of US global leadership: Power without authority,” The Interpreter, Lowy Institute, October 7, 2019, accessed January 31, 2022, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/decline-us-global-leadership-power-without-authority.

3 Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 110.

4 Behnam Ben Taleblu, “The Iran-Iraq War: It Still Haunts the Middle East To This Day,” The National Interest, May 15, 2019, accessed January 31, 2022, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/iran-iraq-war-it-still-haunts-middle-east-day-57697.

5 Niloufar ‘Lily’ Sarafan, “The Evolving Nexus between Islam and Iran,” Stanford University, Honors Research in Iran, Summer 2001, accessed January 31, 2022, https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Islam%20and%20Iran.htm.

6 Enayatollah Yazdani, “Globalization and the Role of Islam in the post-Soviet Central Asia, “Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations 8 (2009): 5, accessed January 30, 2022, https://dergipark.org.tr/en/download/article-file/19529.

7 Amin Saikal, Iran Risisng: The Survival and Future of the Islamic Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 79.

8 Michael R. Dillon, “Wahhabism is it a factor in the spread of global terrorism?” (MA Thesis, Naval Post Graduate School, 2002) 56, accessed January 30, 2022, https://nps.edu/documents/105988371/107571254/DillonWahhabismThesis.pdf/23fc46fb-17a6-41da-83b8-8e312191b5bb.

9 Mark Levine, “Muslim Responses to Globalization,” SIM Newsletter, International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World 10 (2002): 37-39, accessed January 31, 2022, https://scholarlypublications.universiteitleiden.nl/access/item%3A2730009/view.

10 “Overview: Islamic Republic of Iran,” The World Bank, March 30, 2021, accessed January 31, 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/iran/overview#1.

11 Michael Rubin, “Iran’s military is making strides into twenty-first century technology,” American Enterprise Institute, August 8, 2019, accessed January 31, 2022, https://www.aei.org/articles/irans-military-twenty-first-century-technology/.

12 Sharmine Narwani, “Iran and the GCC: Prospects for a Grand Reconciliation,” The Cairo Review of Global Affairs 43(2021): accessed January 31, 2022, https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/iran-and-the-gcc-prospects-for-a-grand-reconciliation/.

13 “The China-Iran 25-Year Cooperation Agreement: What is it and Should Investors be Encouraged?” China Briefing, July 16, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.china-briefing.com/news/the-china-iran-25-year-cooperation-agreement-what-is-it-and-should-regional-investors-traders-pay-attention/.

14 Nazila Fathi, “What will SCO membership mean for Iran?” Middle East Institute, September 28, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.mei.edu/publications/what-will-sco-membership-mean-iran.

15 Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas, “Iran Turns East,” Foreign Policy, October 26, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/10/26/iran-china-russia-sco-raisi-turns-east/.

16 Amin Saikal, ibid., 241.

17 Ibid., 210.

18 “Refugees in Iran,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/ir/refugees-in-iran/.

19 Annika Kim Constantino, “Biden administration falls short of fiscal year 2021 U.S. refugee admissions cap,” CNBC, October 8, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/08/biden-administration-falls-short-of-fiscal-year-2021-us-refugee-admissions-cap-.html,

20 Jeanne Batalova, “Afghan Immigrants in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, September 9, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/afghan-immigrants-united-states.

21 Caleb Kieffer, “Afghan Refugee Resettlement Efforts Ignites Ugly Rhetoric Despite Popular Support,” Southern Poverty Law Center, December 2, 2021, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2021/12/02/afghan-refugee-resettlement-efforts-ignites-ugly-rhetoric-despite-popular-support.

22 Travis Tritten, “Thousands of Afghans Remain Housed on US Bases Months After the Fall of Kabul,” Military.com, January 10, 2022, accessed January 30, 2022, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/01/10/thousands-of-afghans-remain-housed-us-bases-months-after-fall-of-kabul.html.

23 Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, ibid., 13.

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