The former Minister of the Iranian embassy in Washington and the current president of the Azadegan Foundation, Dr. Assad Homayoun, opines as follows:
“Without any doubt, an Islamic Iran is capable of supporting terrorism. I cannot express an opinion about the authenticity, importance or lack of importance of this reported assassination plot, because our information and what we know are much more limited than what we do not know. I believe the U.S. should not repeat history in making poor choices. The incomplete war in Iraq has so far cost the U.S. $2 trillion. Any military action against Iran could catapult this volcanic region to a global war and the U.S. will lose more than it perceives to gain. Further, such a decision could contribute to prolongation of the despotic regime of clerics in Iran.”
Iranian national identity has fallen victim not only to Islam and its centuries-old internal conflicts, but also to the global struggle for vital resources. Resources and economics were and remain the driving force for control of some over others. Religion or philosophy has been and continues to be used as a tool for obtaining these valuable and limited resources.
The number one resource has been oil since early 20th century – an element abundant in the Mideast which played a key role in strategies and outcome of WWI and WWII as well as the Cold War including in their aftermath the recoveries of the war-stricken West and the Far East despite the irrelevancy of such conflicts to the Middle Eastern peoples.
Since the arrival of a 7th century socio-political philosophy called Islam in Iranian territories which was used to usurp regional power over rich and important trade routes, Iranian national identity has been under attack. Although that identity had fully recovered some 150 years after the violent invasion of Alexander, who deliberately left this massive territory without proper succession guaranteeing decades of chaos and mayhem, it has failed to fully recover from the onslaught of Islamism (a phenomenon that engulfed others in the region).
This is clearly seen as Western scholars confirm what they chose to call “Islamic Civilization” (not post-Islamic Middle Eastern Civilization) which is irresponsible and insensitive given that different peoples in the West were able to maintain their identities with the proper designation of “Western Civilization,” not something myopic such as “Christian Civilization.”
In this context, one can see that the Iranian struggle for its identity played a major role in the development of Sunni-Shiite factions. Also because the majority of dynasties in control of Iranian territories between the 7th century and 1925 were not Iranian by origin but practiced Islam in some format, the Iranian identity and sense of national security have been in turmoil and confusion. Needless to say, although Islamic hegemony is a threat to the Iranian people in of itself, setting that against majority Sunni Arabs versus minority Shiite Iranians, one can only imagine the constant competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia is a young country albeit with ancient tribal territorial holdings. It was a poor country until the discovery of oil. Curiously, even though Saudi Arabia eventually accumulated immense wealth from its oil proceeds, it has fallen short of meaningful and praiseworthy modern social and political movements. One cannot recall any major inventions or life-changing discoveries coming from such a wealthy nation except massive global mosque-building efforts and support of Wahhabism as well as radical terrorist groups across the world. The Saudi people continue to live under intense restrictions to their personal freedom as do their counterpart post-1979 Iranian people – both sharing the legacy of oil as well as living under Sharia laws.
Iran, on the other hand, is an ancient country with one of the oldest ethnic monotheistic philosophies that history calls Zoroastrianism. It created the first world empire, and is regarded as the birthplace of the earliest human rights decree. Iran has gone through periods of immense wealth as well as decline with such ups and downs primarily due to periods in which there was a lack of strong central government.
Just as Saudi Arabia, Iran too entered the modern era with discovery of oil. In contrast to Saudi Arabia, however, history documents the amazing and rapid modernization and industrialization of Iran between 1930s and 1979 under the Pahlavi kings. Along with these efforts, history also notes major social and political reforms including removal of forced hijab (reinstated by the Islamic Republic regime in 1979) and women’s voting rights just in time for the nation’s 1971 celebrations marking 2500 years of recorded history and monarchy.
Iran is not only home to one of the largest oil reserves as well as other hotly sought-after resources such as natural gas, but also a major “gateway” between the East and the West. Iranian people and their national identity are currently under attack by the Islamist regime in Teheran that violently took over the country in 1979, as well as an old rival Saudi Arabia for regional control. Oddly, the West has allied itself with the Saudis (two complete different cultures that do not mesh) against the Iranian people (who have a history of modernization and liberalism) for control of the Mid East region.
The best strategists and political scientists such as Machiavelli have often advised that one should form alliances with like-minded, loyal and reliable forces. Prior to the rise of Islamists in 1979, a secular, nationalist Iran was a loyal and reliable ally to the West in a volatile region. The majority of Iranians related to the Free World and enjoyed social freedoms that were reintroduced to a nation that had literally crawled out from under medieval religious mentality several decades earlier.
A people who defines itself based on pre-Islamic era and establishes its laws and geopolitical position accordingly should be encouraged to revive its unique and universal heritage. Although the Islamist regime in Teheran has been force-feeding the Iranian population with Sharia laws foreign to its national identity, it has failed to brainwash the new generation as the youth find every opportunity to demonstrate against the clerics and defy the system through various acts such as organizing underground music festivals and public water-fights in the parks.
Therefore, since the majority of Iranians are against the ruling clerics and their thugs, their time is up and they will fall from power. It is only a matter of time. It is best for the West to ally with the people of Iran rather than with the Saudi princes by not falling into age-old Shiite-Sunni Islamic power struggles as seen in this latest assassination plot. Unlike a pre-1979 secular Iran, the Saudis do not have a record of moving forward and assimilating with modernization and civil liberties in pursuit of happiness and prosperity.
A question is posed: Will the West prosper and avoid continuous bloody conflicts with a Mid East under Islamic hegemony (Sunni Saudi version or Shiite Islamic Republic version), or a Mid East under balancing, secular regional powers? The best scenario for the West would rely heavily on the Iranian people’s successful overthrow of the mullahcracy in Teheran for a nationalist government. This would immediately stop the spread of militant Islamism and forge a new era where peace and prosperity relies on secular democracies and social freedom.
The Iranian people are willing, ready and able to do so not only for the future of their ancient nation but also to be in sync with the Free World. In their endeavor to revive Iranian national identity, they need the support of the West not its backlash by falling into endless and useless Shiite-Sunni power struggles which do not take into consideration anything but economic control even over allies.
Sheda Vasseghi is on the Board of Azadegan Foundation, and is a regular contributor to Freepressers.com and WorldTribune.com on Iran’s affairs. Join The Official Site of Sheda Vasseghi on Facebook.