When Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran in 1979, ending his exile just as the Shah was beginning his, he came as the victor of a 16-year war between the turban and the crown. Khomeini himself had fired the war’s first shots on June 3, 1963, in an attack on the Shah for sins of every description, not least Iran’s cooperative relations with Israel. “Is the Shah an Israeli?” Khomeini asked, adding that the monarch was an “infidel Jew.” The royal response was not long in coming. Khomeini was promptly hauled off to prison, and on June 5 (the 15th of the Persian month of Khordad), following riots across Iran protesting Khomeini’s arrest, the Shah’s men scattered the crowds with gunfire. The suppression of the protests left the ayatollah to conclude, “Israel does not wish the Qur’an to exist in this country.” Iranian history would remember the “15th of Khordad Uprising” as setting in motion the wheel of revolution that would complete its circuit in 1979.
Before Khomeini was sent into 15 years of exile (from which he could agitate against the Shah under much less scrutiny), he was released from prison to a half-year of house arrest. Confined to his simple quarters in the holy city of Qom, he pressed on in his fight against the Shah while receiving many admiring visitors. Among those who came to pay tribute was Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Iran’s preeminent intellectual in the 1960s. Though a slack Muslim himself whose daily round was more likely to include vodka than prayer, Al-e Ahmad had launched the fateful search for Islamic authenticity in Iranian society in the 1960s with his 1962 pamphlet Gharbzadegi, or “Westoxification.” A “holy book for several generations of Iranian intellectuals” in one scholar’s appraisal, Gharbzadegi contends that Iranians who had embraced the West had become “strangers to themselves,” being at once unfaithful Iranians and sham Westerners. Worse yet, these Iranians were not just fraudulent but, as the title Westoxification indicates, they were diseased. All was not lost, though, because their disease had a cure: If the West was the toxin with which Iranians had poisoned themselves, Islam was the antidote.
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“The worst part of the dragon is in the tail.” You do not have to know what it means; it gives off a spooky authority. This thought was written by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the great Cuban writer who knew something about dragons’ tails: he had confronted Fidel Castro and lived to tell about it. While on a diplomatic mission to Brussels in 1965, he denounced Castro, abandoned his post and lived out a life of exile in London until his death in 2005. He never went back.
For a minute, let us call the dragon Islamic Terror (we shall get back later to the tail). There is much about the dragon we do not know: where he lives exactly, his vulnerabilities, his comings and goings, his next attacks, his feeding schedule. We do know that he foments terror and inspires fear. From the front part of the dragon, his snout, emerges a tongue flick — tasting the air, sensing out fresh victims. His first major tongue-dart at the West was the death threat — a fatwa with a bounty issued in 1989 by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini — on Salman Rushdie, a citizen of Britain citizen, for his novel, The Satanic Verses.
What the dragon learned with that initial thrust! The West was so genteel. The United Nations issued condemnations on — paper! Diplomats wrote scare-letters. Politicians said harrumph.
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There is a campaign designed as a rescue mission for Afshin, arranged by
Live up to Freedom, founded by Aynaz Anni Cyrus:
Last year, when America, Britain and four other countries (the P5+1) signed their joint plan of action with Iran there was no shortage of people who warned of the consequences. They warned that the deal would merely delay rather than prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power. They warned of the increased grip the mullahs would have on the country they purport to govern. And in particular, those not caught up in the P5+1 jubilation warned of what Iran would do with the tens of billions of dollars’ cash bonanza it would receive once the deal was done. Would Iran use this windfall solely to improve the lives of its people? Or might it spend at least a portion of this cash doing what it has been doing for nearly four decades: that is, spreading terror?
There have already been some signs that the ill-judged deal is embedding Iran’s worst behaviour rather than elevating the regime to any higher behavioral level.
In recent days we have learned that Iran is already planning to use its windfall to encourage Palestinian terror against the State of Israel. Speaking at the end of last month, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon used a press conference with a number of Palestinian factions to announce a new bounty-scheme to be sponsored by Iran. This scheme promises to reward financially those who carry out terror against Israel. The reward includes — according to the Iranian ambassador — a payment of $7,000 to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists who die in the process of attacking any Israeli. And it also includes a promised payment of $30,000 to any terrorists’ families whose homes are destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces. The demolition of the home of a terrorist’s family house is one of the only disincentives that Israel or any other country could think of to dissuade people intent on suicide attacks. Now the Iranian government is trying to re-incentivise anyone who might wish to commit such an attack.
On Thursday, Iran celebrated the 37th anniversary of its Islamic revolution with great fanfare. To mark the success of the reign of the mullahs, which began in 1979 with the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from exile, Iranians took to the streets to chant “Death to America, Death to Israel,” while waving banners hailing the current despot-cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Normally, this occasion involves a march to the defunct US Embassy, the site of the hostage-taking of American diplomats, to bask in the defeat of the Great Satan at the hands of students loyal to Khomeini.
This year, however, the regime in Tehran had additional and more recent reasons to gloat. The first was the lifting of international sanctions, made possible by Iran’s intransigence during nuclear negotiations. Understanding full well that US President Barack Obama would stoop to any low necessary to achieve a deal with the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian hegemons got what they didn’t even have to bargain for.
“Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.” — Ayatollah Khomeini