Jan 23 2010

The Island Curmudgeon – Iran: The swing of the pendulum

Map of Iran

Map of Iran

By William J. Duggan

The year was 1979. It was a tragic year with major repercussions which are still felt today: the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Mullahs, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. One year later, Iraq would invade Iran.

The Shahs

The year was 1921. A young Iranian military officer overthrew the Qajar Dynasty (1794 – 1921) by a coup d’etat. His name was Reza Pahlavi and he was proclaimed Shah in 1925. Progressive and determined, he led Iran into the twentieth century. In 1941, the British and Russians deposed him because of his pro German leanings. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who advanced his father’s policies. Roads and schools were built. The rights of women were improved considerably, especially in education. He was very pro-west and pro-America. These policies angered the Mullahs. In cooperation with the British, oil fields were explored and developed. Oil made many Iranians wealthy, but many also remained poor. Active resistance to the Shah’s policies was on the rise. The Mullahs aided and abetted the discontent. The Shah created the Savak, a brutal secret police force, to control the population. The university students took to the streets; the revolution began. The Shah was deposed in 1979. Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile. As Supreme Leader, he established the rule of the Mullahs and enforced Islamic law. The Shah went to the U.S. for medical treatment. The American embassy was stormed and hostages were taken. The Shah went to Panama and then to Egypt, where he died in 1980.

Iran/Iraq war

The year was 1980. Saddam Hussein invaded Iran to claim Shatt al Arab, a waterway to the Persian Gulf and a border between Iraq and Iran proximate to the Iranian oil fields. Khomeini and the Revolutionary Guards pushed the Iraqi back. This was lasted eight years. Iran was supported by Egypt, Libya, North Korea and China. Iraq was supported by Russia and covertly by the U.S. because of the hostage crisis. What strange bedfellows! In 1988, the U.N. enforced a peace between Iran and Iraq. This eight year war would result in one and a half million deaths to both countries.

The swing of the pendulum

The year was 2005. Hashemi Rafsanjani was defeated in the Iranian presidential election by the mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was in reality a puppet of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Together, they used the Revolutionary Guard and the police to control the population. In 1979, with the fall of the Shah, Iran’s economy began to slide under the Supreme Leader Khomeini and today is in shambles. The people are resisting the control of the Mullahs. In 2009, Ahmadinejad was re-elected as President of Iran. The election results were tampered with and manipulated. The opposition is still formidable. The reformer and opposition leader, Houssein Mousavi, claimed that fourteen million ballots were not counted or were destroyed. The protestors of the fraudulent elections have taken to the streets. The university students are in open rebellion. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are using the police and Revolutionary Guard to dispel the demonstrators. The police have invaded several university dormitories to beat, indiscriminately, male and female students. The dissidents arrested so far are*: Heshmat Tabarzadi, a democratic activist; Ebrahim Yazdi, Secretary of the Freedom Movement; Nushin Ebaldi and Morteza Haji, both women’s rights activists; Emad Baghi, A human rights activist; and several aids to Mousavi. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are determined to silence the opposition.

Iran is a dangerous country. It has armed Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Members of the Revolutionary Guard have been captured or killed in Iraq, fighting Iraqi and American troops. The sophisticated road side bombs are the product of Iran. It has become isolated because of its efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad, using the words of the first Supreme Leader, Khomeini, publicly declared Iran was would wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

The same conditions that brought down the Shah in 1979 are present today. The economy is in shambles. Social unrest is on the rise with the university students and the opposition taking to the streets. On Wednesday, December 29, 2009, the Iranian police shot and killed eight demonstrators, some of whom were students. Iran is ripe for a regime change. Why is America so aloof? It took a few days for our vacationing President to decry the deaths of the protestors. Our State Department has said little or nothing about the civil unrest. Who knows what orders have been given to the CIA, if indeed they have been given any. The big question is: when will Israel strike?

*Note: the dissidents listed were reported in the Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2009.

William Duggan is a former political columnist for the Palmetto Connection. He can be reached at

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