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Friday 13 January 2012

Khomeini's Iran-2-Most Ayatollahs support the Shah

Khomeini's Iran-2-Most Ayatollahs support the Shah 

In the early fifties a coalition of progressives and communists won the elections. The government, led by a moderate nationalist Dr Mossadeq, nationalized the oil industry. Anglo-American interests were in an uproar. They tried all kinds of threats, which did not work. The Shah fled the country into exile in Rome. Neo-imperialist agents in place, feudal supporters of the Shah, security agencies and the largely pro-shah army created a law and order situation.  CIA inspired, abetted and managed coup restored the king to the throne[i].
 The king perpetrated a reign of terror through his secret service, which went under the acronym, Sawak. In its day it was more dreaded than the Russian secret service under Stalin. Hundreds including the foreign minister Husain Fatmi were killed. Scores of thousands were jailed, and a greater number fled the country. One of them enrolled as a student into my medical school. Sawak arrested and tortured hundreds of dissidents on a daily basis, with complete impunity with out any sanction of law or courts. Nazi treatment of dissidents was humane in comparison.  The brutality lasted till the Shah’s second ouster in 1979. That insurgency was led by Ayatollah Khomeini and was organized at the grass roots level by his followers.
  Shah had handed over security and much of economic activity to Americans. His local functionaries came from the dissident Muslim sect called Bahais[ii] who have a particularly hedonistic faith. The other component of the security apparatus were the Jews who, though they kept their faith, were otherwise thoroughly assimilated. One could not guess their religion from their names. I met two Jewish Iranian Physicians in Brooklyn. Their original names were indistinguishable from the names of Muslims. They had, however, married local Jewish girls and had Americanized their names.
The Shah had virtually no control over oil, industry or other resources of the country. He was allowed an illusion of power and grandeur and could enact cosmetic measures such as Iranians could listen to POP music, go to clubs, drink and dance. Women could wear western clothes. Press and all kinds of dissent were kept on a tight leash. Imperialist interests kept him as a local gendarme. CIA controlled the local secret service called Sawak. All clandestine activities in mid- East and Far East were managed from Teheran. Their tentacles reached all sections of the society.  Iranians were not even aware of secret installations at the Soviet border. For long after Khomeini take over they kept on discovering secret bases at the country. His army was, in the same manner, under the sway of Pentagon, trained, supplied and beholden to them.  High-ranking American officers made regular visits to Iran. Iranian officers attended strategy sessions at American bases and in Pentagon.
 A comprador class owing allegiance to the USA was created and served as a fifth column under nominal rule of the Shah. Great emphasis was laid on westernization of education, culture, mode and norms of behavior. The Shah later in his rule stopped paying even lip service to Islam. Neo-colonization in the most naked and pervasive form was practiced in Iran.
             Iranians are generally conformist Shia Muslims. What is perhaps more important is that they have a well-defined and structured clerical system. The highest five clerics are called Ayatollah Uzma-in popular usage the Grand ayatollahs-whom under the 1906 constitution even the Shah could not imprison. Under the Grand ayatollahs are plain Ayatollahs, Hojatullhs and so on. These gentlemen were generally non-political and immersed themselves in scholarship and esoteric teaching. Majority of people in next-door Iraq are Shias too, but for a thousand years minority Sunnis have ruled the country. When the British took over the county from the Turks they elected to use Sunnis as their agents in place. Iraqis Shias are guided in religion mores by their own Ayatollahs who are trained in Iranian seminaries[iii].
The Shah and Americans both grossly underestimated the upsurge in Khomeini’s support.  Jimmy Carter, during a visit to the country, called Iran a sea of stability just a few weeks before the Shah was kicked out.
            The impact of Khomeini’s revolution must not be underestimated. He dislodged an entrenched regime, which had all levers of power and patronage in its hands. It had made common cause with the more powerful and richer of the two super powers.  The country was awash with oil money, which the rulers used to entice, buy, and otherwise influence the populace and suborn opposition leaders. They sent students in their thousands to expensive foreign schools and built industries, universities, hospitals, roads, and houses of pleasure. All kinds of entertainment, song, dance, wine, designer clothes, and foreign trips were available to those who toed the line. A little prosperity filtered down to the common man too. 
As noted earlier the Shah had styled himself Arya Mehr, Shahenshah (SUN of Aryans, king of kings). He celebrated 3000thanniversary of Iranian monarchy by erecting a city of tents on a site reported to have been the seat of ancient and fabled Iranian kings. Every head of the state had a tent. The furnishings and supplies of the tents would shame the palace of minor royalty. The bash lasted a week; champagne flowed like water and caviar was consumed in tons. Wine, women and music were plied, in that order. The binge cost several hundred million US dollars.
Americans humored him, supplying him with the latest armaments, training and technical support. More CIA personnel reportedly worked in Teheran than did in Langley VA! He could buy influence in countries like Pakistan and dominated the scene in the mid-East. But he could not bribe his way into the hearts and minds of mainstream Iranians[iv].
Khomeini was able to focus the unrest, make it a cohesive force and remove the Shah by sheer force of will as it were. He did not have to resort to armed insurgency. It would have been a mistake. His cohorts could not match the firepower of the Shah. Gandhi proved beyond any shadow of doubt that you can fight overwhelming force more effectively with non-violence. Khomeini’s achievement was in a way greater than Gandhi’s. He was fighting a native tyrant who could command greater allegiance than a colonial ruler could. He was successful in spite of wide infiltration of saboteurs in his own ranks. The first post revolution President of the country, Bani Sadr, fled after exposure. The foreign minister Qutub Zadeh, who had been head of Khomeini’s security detail, was executed after confessing to being in the pay of the CIA. Gandhi did not have to contend with collaborators at that level.
 Khomeini’s impact influence over the third world generally and among the Muslims especially was remarkable. He had succeeded at a time when the neo-imperialists could and did have their will of third countries in Asia, Mid and Far East, Africa and Latin America. Muslims were totally disheartened and were suffering from collective depression.  Pakistan had lost its more populous eastern wing. Egypt had been unable to wrest control of Palestinian lands from the hands of Israel and had had to sign an unequal peace treaty. Arab world was in disarray and disunited. The other super power, Soviet Union was fighting for control of Afghanistan and in a mortal struggle with fundamentalist Islam. An American agent was ruling Iraq. Independence and progressive movements were in retreat all over.
Khomeini was a pan-Islamist. He never talked of, wrote about or even referred to Shia-Sunni schism. He understood as few did that when you are down and out, it is not the time to quarrel with your kin. He only talked of the Holy Book and the teachings of the prophet. His life style appealed to the poor and the wretched. Islam has a deep ascetic and egalitarian tradition. The Prophet and his immediate followers eschewed luxury and ease. He ordained that one should indulge in over eating. In fact one should eat a little less than would satisfy hunger. One should not eat before making sure that neighbors have food on the table. Khomeini slept on the floor on a mat, and lived on yogurt, honey and rice.
 I visited Pakistan soon after the revolution. People were euphoric. Shia and Sunni, man, woman and child, in government employ or in private enterprise, educated and illiterate, rich and poor, right or left wing, and from all corners of the country, all lauded Khomeini. Agents provocateurs, saboteurs, Wahabis and others on the lunatic religious fringe lay low. The credulous ones even talked of the Mehdi, the Muslim version of the Messiah. For the first time in over a thousand years the followers of the major sects of Islam developed a sense of belonging to one faith.  Notables from both communities pledged that Shia Sunni riots which occurred with sickening regularity during the Moharram commemoration of martyrdom of Imam Husain, would not be allowed.

[i] Kermit Roosevelt a CIA operative and grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt was the presiding genius of the coup. CIA never looked back from that initial success. Grandfather Roosevelt is known more for cowboy wars of aggression in South America and the infamous Guantanamo Bay is his legacy.
[ii] A preacher named Bahaullah founded the sect. He did not get anywhere till a brilliant and beautiful woman name Qiratulain accepted his teaching with out ever meeting him, and proselytized very effectively. It is said that half of her audience was mesmerized by her Lectures. The other half submitted when at the end of the discourse she unveiled herself. Finally they met. Qiratulain was disillusioned and repudiated the man. His followers assassinated her.
[iii] But Iraqi Shias fought with Iran at the behest of Saddam as ferociously as Sunnis did.
[iv]  During the period I was in Brooklyn NY, I could guess an Iranian’s religious affiliation with a hundred percent accuracy by the opinion he/she had of the Shah. If he was a supporter of the despot, he was Jewish. If he opposed the Shah he was a Muslim.

Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
(607) 776-3336
P.O. Box 469,
Bath NY 14810
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.

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