The New Iranian “Revolution.” Chances of Success?

the good old days in Iran. The Shah was an authoritarian, pretentious, egocentric  ruler but compared to the regime today he was a decent human being.

To understand this m new development in Iran one must look back to the 1978-79 revolution that ousted the Shah. Like this new movement in Iran it had certain similarities. In late 1977, intellectual, elite  sectors of the Iran populations began criticizing the shah, including having a poetry festival which was used to denounce the regime of the Shah. The Shah did not crack down. Soon the religious clerics of Iran took up the banner of revolt, following the sermons of Ayatollah Khomeini, at that time in Iraq since 1963 when he was exiled by the Shah for his fiery Anti- Shah sermons. The Iranian pilgrims to Najaf Iraq brought back cassettes and pamphlets of Khomeini’s speeches urging revolution.  Saddam’s regime, happy to get rid of a  troublesome Shi’a cleric, agreed to  send Khomeini  away.The Shah thought that if he could get the Ayatollah sent away to Europe his ability to communicate with is followers would atrophy.  Khomeini was sent to Paris. Unfortunately the Shah’s strategy failed .Just the reverse happened. Because of the much better array of communication capabilities available in France, the cassettes of the Ayatollah  were heard everywhere, from the mosques to the tops of apartment buildings with loud speakers.

Iranian soldiers march during a military parade as they mark the country’s annual army day in Tehran, on April 18, 2019. – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on April 18 to “drive back Zionism”, in an Army Day tirade against the Islamic republic’s archfoe Israel. Speaking flanked by top general as troops paraded in a show of might, Rouhani also sought to reassure the region that the weaponry on display was for defensive purposes and not a threat. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile the rabble emerging from the shanty towns  of impoverished peasants  of the major cities began challenging the Iranian security force and bloody encounters followed, especially the Jaleh square “massacre” of September 8, 1978.  The was  followed by an endless cycle  of the traditional Shi’a 40 days of mourning culminated by another protest on the fortieth day….always ending  in gunfire and more martyrs.

At this point The US president Jimmy Carter got nervous about the situation in Iran, in which the US had about 20000 advisors, technicians and hangers on  so he  and sent General Huyser to Iran to investigate the staying power of the military. He found that the Iranian military were mostly jelly-like  creatures in bemedaled uniforms. They had  no initiative, were fearful, and enjoyed no respect from their own officers. The officers, like most Middle Eastern countries ,had no contact with their soldiers. The soldiers drawn from the poor folk of Iran, were attracted to the Islamic messages of the Khomeini supporters, and were led by more educated often marxist sympathizers of the  upper class , western educated elitists rebelling  against the Shah.

When called upon to fire on their own people the soldiers often  refused  and later on they deserted with their weapons  and join the rebels. This spelled the end of the Shah. The beginning of the end was when the warrant officers of the Air Force (homofars ) broke into arms rooms and handed  out weapons to the mobs.

On 19 Jan, 1979, The Shah departed never to return and a succession of governments took place, each being displaced by the Khomeini forces led by the Ayatollah who retuned on 1 Feb 1979, until the Ayatollah instituted the Velayet-e- faqih which basically gave him totalitarian powers and in effect he became the visible form of the Shi’a “hidden Imam” who was to led the world to salvation and the utopia. His rule was to be unquestioned

Khomeini himself, as depicted by some of his  former followers, turned off by his murderous despotic character, described him as a duplicitous, lying, corrupt individual, drunk by the prospect of power. His former follower, who was instructed by Khomeini, Ayatollah Jallal Ganjei  described his former mentor this way  in the book The Iran Threat by Alireza Jafarzadeh.

Mr Sunshine

It is noteworthy that the first revolts against the Khomeini rule was on 8 March 1979 when women protested against the mandatory wearing of the  Hijab.  see

“Ironically, in the prelude to the revolution, the chador became a garment of choice for secular women who protested the Shah’s rule. Khomeini made the hijab mandatory and the chador as “the best hijab.” When Iranian women protested against the new mandate, they were brutally dispersed, and some were arrested. In 1983, Majlis decided that unveiled women would be punished with 74 lashes; as of 1995, they could be imprisoned for up to 60 days.”

Women protest against mandatory wearing of Hijab march 1978

The revolution against the Shah was a 9 -month affair, beginning with very  small protests gradually enlarging to a national revolt.

Unfortunately I do not see this happening now in Iran as much as I would like to see it succeed. Iran, and China are the two greatest threats to the stability of the Western world and the destruction of the Clerical totalitarian state in Iran should be a prime objective of the US government…unlikely as it is to be. Why Pessimistic?

1. This Hijab revolt has no leader, no secular or moderate cleric with the charisma and  fortunate circumstances that availed  Khomeini.

2. The protestors are the elite and often more effete of the Iranian upper and middle classes. They cannot stand up to the shanty town thugs of the Basij and IRGC.  The Tudeh ( Communists) fought against the Khomeini  mobs, tough people from the slums and were defeated.Many  Western analysts believed that with the exit of the Shah the Communists would take over.

3. The shah was sick with raging cancer. He was physically and spiritually unable to command  his forces in 1978 and his generals and top officials, with very few exceptions were spineless, corrupt individuals who simply did as they were told…and others such as the Shah’s lifelong friend General Hossien Fardust were cowardly traitors.  See his cringing memoirs , The Rise and Fall of the Pavlavi Dynasty by Ali Akbar Darieni. The Basij and IRGC are deeply embedded in the society of Iran and have become rich under the Mullah rule. The senior clerics of Iran have enriched themselves with religious endowments and government largesse. They have much to lose in a revolution. They will come down hard on the rebellious women.

4. The West is  currently saddled with weak leadership and no support other than useless words are to be expected. The women and their supporters of Iran are on their own.

Protest in Iran 1978

Some of the  books I think are good to read for the non academic look at the Iran revolution of 1978

Mission to Iran by the Ambassador to Iran during the end of the Shah’s reign  William Sullivan.

Faces In a Mirror by Ashram Pahlavi, The sister of the Shah who was accused of every possible depravity known to man by the Islamist regime, probably 90% baseless, but she was tough  and  pushed the always hesitant Shah to bite the bullet but he did not.

Mission to Tehran by General  Robert “Dutch” Huyser.  He was was very pessimistic of the ability of the Iranian generals to save the Shah…in fact President Carter, the American and British ambassadors were not giving the shah the support he needed to persevere.

An Endearing  Love; My life withe Shah by Farah Pahlavi. The last queen of the Shah, preceded by the sister of King Farouk, who hated Iran,  Soraya, a Baktiari beauty  who was unable to have a child.  A rather sentimental and sometimes touching memoir who has tried to resurrect her husbands memory currently depicted as a  despicable tyrant framed by the “black and the Red” media…the leftist and Islamist.

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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