UI – Part 439 – Modern Times in Iran, Afghanistan, and Elsewhere
There Was a Time – Afghanistan
There was a time when Afghanistan was a monarchy under the King Amanullah (1919). Freedoms more akin to the West were being instituted. Social, economic and political reforms took place. Slavery and forced labor were abolished as well as the veil for women. Secular education for boys and girls, co-ed, opened the minds of many. The renovations were too much for the more fundamental Islamists, mostly tribal areas, resistance arose, and this King resigned in 1929. However many of the reforms, modernization, continued under Nadir and Zadir Shah (also Kings). The Kings were more secular even though the fundamentalists felt slighted by the changes that were not in accord with the Quranic Laws they lived by. Free elections were instituted. Modernization was emphasized anew after WWII. Women’s rights were established. The women approved and defended their new freedoms. All was well until 1973 when the King was overthrown by the Prime Minister, Mohammad Daoud Kahn. Daoud became first President of Afghanistan. He grew an army as a deterrent against military forces of Iran and Pakistan (both aided by the USA). He resisted Islamist attempts to alter progress, but needed outside financial aide. He looked to his Russian neighbor to the north. Many of the Islamists emigrated as refuges to the Pashtun area of Pakistan to find those with whom they were in accord. Daoud sought aide from Russia but resisted a communist build-up. Then the President was assassinated, by his own army, and soon the Russians entered in 1979. Life for the Afghans began to change.
Islamist resistance, a protest force against the Russians and the secularists, grew from education and military training centers in Pakistan supplied financially and with arms by the Saudi’s and USA, respectively. The USA wanted the Russians out. The Saudi’s wanted the Islamists, educated in the Wahhabist ways, in.
Afghanistan became, referred to by many, the Russians Vietnam. By 1989 they had enough and removed their troops. With the defeat of the Russians the Taliban returned to control Afghanistan and reestablish it is an Islamic State. All the worst for the residents. A reversal of lifestyles and modernization occurred under the dictatorial and inhumane rulership of the Taliban (1996-2000). No communism, no secularism, just Sharia Law.
The invasion by the Soviets in 1979 took place under the watchful eye (not so) of Jimmy Carter. America armed the protestors composed of mujahidin (from the tribal areas), students (the Talib), and more strident Islamists (Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood associates) to thwart the advance of the Russians. At the same time an enemy force against the West was radicalized and weaponized.
There was a Time – Iran
There was a time in Iran when the appeal to Western customs was great. A parliamentary structure guided by Prime Minister Mosaddegh (appointed by the Shah in 1951) was making Iran more independent. Education of men and women, social customs allowing for both sexes in public together, no hijab or Burqas, and music could be heard, dancing allowed and news from around the world broadcast and listened to. Mosaddegh was a leading champion of secular reforms and independence from foreign efforts to control elements of Iran. Oil had a devastating effect and changes occurred leading to a revolution. In a coup in 1953 Mosaddegh was replaced with the Shah (Pahlavi). The British instituted the coup, but not without assistance from the USA (Eisenhower President at the time – 1953).
The Shah was a selfish autocrat but maintained the westernized advances. It was the time of the Oil Embargo when oil prices increased significantly, dramatically enhancing the treasuries of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Shah too took over the oil interests (held primarily by the British) in 1973-1974. The Shah became a problem and a revolutionary propaganda war to lessen his prestige and standing in Iran was set in motion. By 1978 there were demonstrations, protests and rioting in the streets in opposition to the Shah. The Khomeini deported from Iran and in exile for more than 14 years was a voice in objection to the reforms and the secular nature of Iran. He had also denounced the Shah of Iran and America (1964). Carter, who became President of US in 1977 advised the Shah not to use his SAVAK guards to quell the violent rebellion. Iran had become a strong nation, well equipped with military gear provided by the USA (strongest army in the Middle East).
The propaganda war was intentionally slanted against the Shah. It is my contention those behind this adverse publicity program where the Islamists that wanted to return to power. If the Shah acted for the people the news was seldom heard, but when his actions created an opportunity to defame the man, they were well reported. Over time this media’s adverse opinion campaign had its intended effect. The people were in support of the ouster of the Shah.
Carter is quoted in 1977 at a State Dinner (for the Shah) saying, “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” How little he knew! Carter was a novice as President. A more competent campaigner for the office than an administrator of the U.S. Government, he had difficulty in making proper assessments of foreign trouble areas, the Middle East in particular. Had he understood recent historical events and favorable developments in Afghanistan and Iran he may have been able to prevent their subsequent recidivism into oppressive nations under the control of Islamist fundamentalists. As with many prior Presidents his first reaction was to ‘the Russians are coming’ with little knowledge of the whole story. If the American President at that time was more aware, better informed, our actions may have helped the people continue to modernize.
With a mutiny by the Iranian army the Shah fell victim in 1979 (2/1/1979) to Khomeini.
With President Jimmy Carter in office a Shiite Mullah (Imam to the Iranians) began the return to archaic Islamic requirements immediately. The dark ages returned. Allowing this theocrat to take over an emerging free nation, having a very strong military, without proper thought as to the reversal of fortunes for the Iranian people was a grave mistake by our President. Peter Jennings, a news anchor for ABC, was present upon the return to greet and interview the Ayatollah. The Khomeini and his Islamic fundamentalist revolutionaries were more than eager to establish an Islamic State in Iran.
I believe America should have tried harder to quell the discontent in Iran and find a secular leader, even a new Prime Minister, to assume control. More cognizant of the desires of the people we would have seen the effort by the fundamenatalists to create discontent towards the Shah, with some justification, and taken necessary steps to have the Shah replaced with a secularist vs a theocrat. The Islamists constantly reminded the people of the involvement of the USA in putting the Shah back in power in 1953. The Islamists and the Ayatollah fooled the people into thinking they would take out the dictator, maintain progress, and even improve the economy, freedom’s, and conditions. Carter was too busy with other agenda items to give Iran proper focus.
The Khomeini proved as ruthless as the Shah. The difference was the Shah was more secular and fought to keep the Islamists at bay, while the Khomeini fought the dissidents that opposed his reforms and instituted the Islamization of Iran. With the Islamization reforms, progress came to a halt. The focus became more on the military and imposing Sharia Law than prosperity for the people. In 1979 Time magazine even named the Khomeini ‘Man of the Year.’
Over 1,000,000 have died since 1979 due to the repressive nature of the Ayatollah regimes.
Jimmy Carter’s Confused Mind
Carter must have been conflicted. After the 1979 Revolution in February, 20 US ships were deployed to the Persian Gulf. Two aircraft carriers were included. Threats were in the air. Was there to be a war between Iran and the US? The US began selling missiles to the Saudi’s. 5,000 of them. Rebels in Yemen were armed. Carter kept toying with Israel and Egypt seeking a peace agreement as a principal legacy issue for him.
Under Obama – Iran
In June of 2009 the Green Movement was underway in Iran. A series of protests in large numbers expressed distrust of the government over a rigged election whereupon Ahmadinejad became President, a choice of the Ayatollah, over Mousavi, the choice of the people. Obama did not support the movement, even when advised to the opportunity it represented to topple the regime. He preferred to continue a policy of appeasement with the hope of a nuclear deal down the road. Obama ignored human rights abuses, he penned letters to the Mullah that the US had no intention of overthrowing the Supreme Leader and he gushed with respect for the regime. His lack of understanding of Iran’s dictators, and the terrorist Islamic foundations, brought no help to the citizens of Iran, or a potential for greater freedoms (democratic reforms). Did Obama fail to give real peace a chance?
Obama, slow to react, watched as a purge of dissidents began, the Khamenei taking advantage of the uprisings to clean house of those who would oppose the regime. The potential for regime change and reform presented itself, a time when America should have provided support, overtly or covertly, but did nothing. Obama overruled advisors wanting to help the reformers, but his agenda called for improving his dealings with the Mullah. Democratic reform was not his objective. Potential for modernity was further constrained. The revolutionaries went underground, quieting their demands to avoid many dying in the Iranian prisons. The notables were sidelined with restrictions imposed, leaving a leadership vacuum. All those close to Mousavi were arrested, his contact with the outside world restricted.
Another reversal of fortunes took place after the Arab Spring in Egypt (2011). President Mubarak was imprisoned and the people held an election. An Islamist, Morsi, was elected. President Obama supported the victory for this Islamist. A long-standing member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an ardent Islamist Morsi began a restrictive Islamization of Egypt. It must be noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was and is on Egypt’s list of terrorist organizations. Obama surprisingly was not able to detect a problem that a fundamentalist would cause for an emerging democracy, at least a secular Muslim entity.
A modern enterprising country visited by millions of tourists each year fell victim to the oppressive nature of Islam. Once referred to as the ‘cradle of civilization’ Egypt hardly represents the modern world as a leading industrialized and productive country.
Public discontent over Morsi’s power led to a military take-over (2013). Sisi, a general and now interim President, vehemently opposes the Muslim Brotherhood and their strident Islamic terrorist activities, but has yet to stabilize Egypt to the point progress can resume. Obama was never certain of America’s support for the Egyptian military and the general. Yet the general stepped in to stop the radical Islamic reforms taking place under Morsi. He has imprisoned many of the Muslim Brotherhood (terrorist) members since removing Morsi.
These are just components of the true stories that can be told that lay out how much of the Middle East and parts of Asia might well be different today if our Presidents, and America, had a better focus and understanding of events taking place. Other nations could have helped, joined in, but after WWII we were considered the world leader, the military force. We were a loved and respected nation. But the question I ask, did we drop the ball that could have the areas noted living in greater freedom today and the millions that live under the regimes, the power of a few, more productive, more humane, more civilized, less oppressed, better educated, and happier? The longer the Islamists are in charge, the less the residents will acknowledge what America once meant to them (a beacon of freedom).
Allowing the Islamists to return to the main stage has enabled and encouraged greater persecution of religious minorities. Obama and his Administration, unfortunately, was too silent about this dilemma. With a new President and new Administration we can only pray things will change.
Western Liberal Thinking
I have a concern about the liberal left mindset that has dumbed down the West to the reality of Arab/Islam influences using oil money to create worship centers and fund college and university programs with curriculums structured by the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist clerics. The programs are most favorable towards Islam and in many cases include messages that are strongly anti-west, anti-freedom. There are no similar Christian or Judaic programs even allowed in those regions. The methods being employed can be admired, since we are not able to create competing curriculums favoring western ideals and freedoms in Muslim majority regions, as a surreptitious means of using colleges and universities as unsuspecting diplomats for the Muslim governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The liberals encourage these incursions of Islamic propaganda that contain little of the true facts, the reality, of the history and proper understanding of Islam.
America was ignorant of the potential for ongoing reform in Afghanistan and Iran, as noted above, allowing unwittingly for a resurgence and return of political Islamists to control and suppress the people. We were blinded by a focus on Russia, possibly, with other priorities than the positive advancements taking place in parts of the Muslim world.
Understand Islam and it will never occur to anyone that it represents peace or prosperity or freedom.
Grace and Peace