Last night I watched a very interesting series on BBC Four called Iran and the West, this was all about Iran from the lead up to the revolution to just after Obama’s inauguration. I was fascinated by it as for me it put the whole situation around Iran into greater context, especially considering the recent events in the country.
In this entry I am going to talk about some of the key events in Iran’s history and express my personal opinion upon the matter.
First I need to talk abut the Shah, now this was essentially the King of Iran up until around 1979. Now whilst I am a supporter of any monarchy style government (primarily the Britain early to mid 20th century) the Shah was abusing his power, democracy was severely undermined meaning the people were not free despite the rise of western and American culture seeping into the country, enraging religious leaders. These instances were mostly responsible for the uprisings that followed, although we have to also consider the expulsion of Ruhollah Khomeini who was the prominent critic of the Shah and called for change. During the majority of the uprisings against the military Khomeini remained in France, much to the anger of the French President. Facing pressure and stress the Shah left Iran for a holiday, although never to return. Khomeini used this to return and with the support of the people assumed command of Iran and lead to the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But it was the events that followed that resulted in the formation of the Ayatollah. In November of 1979 students seized the US embassy and took hostage of all those inside. This caused disagreement in the cabinet and lead to the resignation of the moderates, leaving the hardliners full control and with this Khomeini could now assume the role of the supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah.
However by standing by and not helping the Americans in gaining the release of the hostages Iran felt some of the force of the US and had strict sanctions imposed, the reality of this meant that it was near impossible for Iran to purchase military supplies. This would be detrimental in the coming months. Although eventually the American hostages were released 13 months after they were first captured, but not until Carter was replaced by Reagan as President for less than 5 minutes!
On 22 September 1980 Saddam Hussein ordered the Iraqi army to invade Iraq! And guess whose help he got (although indirectly) America and the UK! Oh how times change! The war between Iran and Iraq went on for 8 years with over 1 million people being killed! During this time the UN did arrange a cease fire with the support of Iraq, however it did not explicitly call for the withdrawal of Iraqi soldiers. But even though Iran was suffering heavy losses the Ayatollah declined the peace offer which meant the war continued… Eventually President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was able to convince the Ayatollah to admit defeat.
In 1997 the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami became the new Iranian President. This was great news as for one he was not the choice of the Ayatollah and was also the main choice of the educated of Tehran. More importantly though was that he wanted to open up relations with America and the West. This was the most significant positive development to occur in Iran since before the revolution. However, the President only has so much power, as the Ayatollah is after all the supreme leader, then there is the cabinet and the various other divisions of power. Khatami allowed more freedom in Iran as well as opening it to the world, in an interview with CNN he made a statement saying that whilst he could not officially promise co-operation directly with the American government (as he knew that if doing so he would find himself out of power very quickly) but by the exchange of culture, business and tourism. Now as there are many restraints due to the overly powerful Ayatollah this was an extremely positive step forward. the first example of this was an Iran v US match of wrestling, despite Iran winning the outcome worked well for both countries and America for once looking good in the eyes of many Iranians. On top of this Khatami had a sense of humour, which helped him seem more amenable to others, such as the Americans. For example during one discussion between him and the Americans the issue that on Iranian missiles the phrase “death to America” was printed upon them, his response was “at least they no longer say death to Khatami”. To me this is a genius move, as it outlines the trouble he faces within his own country from the other divisions of power as well as staying on good terms with America.
However the 21st century changed things. First was the appointment of the then new President George W Bush. What was shocking for me to discover was that during the early days of the Afghanistan conflict Iran was actually giving America intelligence on Afghanistan! Of which was actually useful and helped lead to the installation of a new government (although the success of this as we all know has not been good). But then 9/11 happened, this was when suddenly W Bush became a war time President and his whole attitude and actions changed. This as we all know lead to the invasion of Iraq. Why Iraq? We all know the “facts” but none the less the coalition went ahead, but did you know that Iran was willing to help! Considering Iraq caused considerable damage to Iran in the 80’s they wanted to get revenge, but America turned them down, not due to the fact that revenge acts can be detrimental, just simply because they felt they didn’t need Iran, even though they were calling for all countries to help? Then Bush made his classic Axis of Evil speech, which included Iran. Now for years this required no second thought, but considering when Bush came into power Iran currently had its most moderate President it had had since the revolution. So why include Iran in the list?
This was only the beginning though as now Iran wanted to produce nuclear power, but the west feared that this was just a cover so that they could create nuclear weapons. As a result the world put its foot down and did all it could to prevent Iran from producing nuclear power. This defiance lead to the election of the hard liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad continually expressed his discontent of America and Western ideals as well as flaunting their increasing armoury, oh and not forgetting that he denies the holocaust and wants to bomb Israel into the ground! So whilst this crazy lunatic is in power there is no co-operating with Iran!
But of course there was the hope that he would be replaced during the election 3 weeks ago in which many hoped Hossein Mousavi would be victorious. Hossein Mousavi the moderate who wants to open up negotiations with the West as well as being supported by the educated middle class (feels like I’m repeating myself…), but apparently he did not win, well that’s what the official sources are still standing by, and as you all know lead to the protests that are still going on. These protests though are different to any other previously, this is because the internet has been a big part, especially social networking sites although mostly Twitter. So important has the use of Twitter been in the protests that they actually delayed the scheduled maintenance so as to help the protestors! Now that’s commitment. On top of that thousands of Twitter users around the world (including myself) have changed their Twitter icon green in support of the protestors. Usually I would tell protestors to go home and get on with day to day life, but the situation in Iran is very different. This is because the Ayatollah has too much power as well as the fact he is a religious leader! Religion and politics should not meet, it never works, if a country like Turkey can realise this, why not Iran? On top of this under Ahmadinejad personal freedom has diminished, stricter rules have been put in place with co inside with religious beliefs. So the hope was to remove Ahmadinejad and allow more freedom to the people so that they can prosper in a free society not bound by religious beliefs! That is not to say that they should all give up their beliefs, even the Iranian people do not want this, but the difference is how strict people can follow their religion, if woman do not want to cover themselves up, then why can’t they? Or if someone dislikes what the government is doing, then why can’t they Tweet about it? Now to close with a popular statment from the Bush administraion " The options are always on the table!"