[These are my answers to questions put to me by Reza Saidi of Tasneem Press Agency on the occasion of the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution on Feb. 10.]
1. In your opinion, what changes in regional power has occurred as a result of the Islamic Revolution?
I believe that the Iranian Revolution was a catalyst that had at least some influence, in some cases a direct inspiration, in precipitating the important changes that followed, including, perhaps indirectly, the Arab spring. Because it demonstrated (1) that an Islamic based revolution could succeed against the puppet of the major world powers and (2) that there is no inherent contradiction between Islamic law and a republican form of government.
2. Is victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran considered as a challenge to USA?
Most observers will agree that the success of the Iranian Revolution is a threat to American imperialism. There are a few extremists who believe, with no evidence but there own paranoia, that it is also a threat to the American way of life.
3. How would you describe differences in pre-Revolutionary Iran and current Iran?
Iran is now more independent of foreign powers than in it was immediately before the revolution. The status of women has improved significantly, especially in education, but in many areas things are worse, especially in terms of academic freedom. In terms of political freedom it seems to be a tradeoff, with the supporters of the religious establishment much better off, and those critical of it much worse off. The most negative change is the status of religion among the young who before the revolution saw religion as a rallying point against tyranny and now perceive it as oppressive.
4. Why did both the governments of East and West (ie the US and its allies and the former Soviet Union) make continual efforts to deter the efforts towards completion of establishing the Islamic Republic? A few examples of these efforts include the planned (and failed) helicopter attack in the dessert of Tabbas, initiating the war with Iraq over a bogus border dispute continuing until today’s efforts of supporting regional “revolutions” in Bahrain and Syria.
The outrageous and unIslamic detention of American diplomats by Iranian students, overly approved by Imam Khomeini, played a major r9ole in sustaining Anerican anti-Iranian feeling at that time, and that feeling persists even today as can be see in the popularity of the movie Argo. Beyond that, the US did not want to lose its pro-Israeli ally in the region and the Soviets feared the rise of an independent regional power, especially one which might inspire the large Muslim population in the Soviet republics of central Asia to revolution.
5. What distinctions can you make between the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the French and Bolshevik Revolutions?
The Iranian Revolution itself was primarily a peaceful resistance operation unlike the French and Bolshevik Revolutions, although its aftermath demonstrated some of the same post-0revolutionary violence of those revolutions once the new regime was in power.
6. What are similarities can be found between the Islamic Revolution in Iran and other recent regional uprisings, such as the Arab Spring?
Like the Arab Spring Tunisia and Egypt, the Iranian Revolution was mainly peaceful resistance, and was composed of a board coalition of anti-regime elements, not limited to Islamists. Like the revolution in Tunisia, but not Egypt, the Islamic faction took the lead in the Iranian Revolution.
7. Could it be said that the recent uprisings and attempts to establish so-called democracies in the region arose as a result of the precedent set by the Islamic Revolution’s overthrow of the Shah’s monarchy?
The Iranian precedent was an important factor because it proved that such revolution is possible.
8. What are the basic disagreements that the West, specifically the USA, holds against the Islamic revolution ?why do they have fear from Islamic revolution? In 1979 , the USA used their utmost pressure to stop Islamic revolution of Iran and today Britain and USA are supporting Bahrain’s government against the populist Islamic revolution. Could you elaborate on this?
The main American concern is losing a militarily powerful ally in the region, especially one that has turned from an ally of Israel to a forceful critic.
9. What is your take on the political position of America in the Region due to recent Arab Spring? do you think their position has been shattered?
America has reluctantly sided with the masses in Tunisia and Egypt only because it saw the writing on the wall, that the regimes would not stand and that their opportunities for influence on the new regimes were enhanced by switching sides. Their support for rebels in Libya and Syria , however, are completely different and based on the belief that they will have a chance to acquire an ally, or at least to overthrow regimes with overt enmity to Israel. I do not see America’s imperial ambitions shattered, only that they have become more cautious as the current administration is substantially more realistic than its predecessor.
10. How do you predict and assess the future revolutions in this region? do you think America will be successful to continue their support of the region’s dictators such as Saudi and Bahrain and others?
Only Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, knows the future. I can only say that while the persistence of those regimes in the near future would not surprise me, I cannot believe they will remain in the long run. As we like to say in the West, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute