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American Wagers on Iran
Published in AL HAYAT on 16 - 02 - 2010

In 1978, the United States became certain that the regime of Iran's Shah Reza Pahlavi would not hold out against the millions of demonstrators being stirred by Ayatollah Khomeini in his exile in France. It also realized that its most important ally in the region, after Israel, had become a burden that could not be saved, whether by peace or war. The only course that remained was to wager on some revolutionaries who were setting up a new regime that took Islam as its motto and formed one element of the group of Islamic states that opposed the Soviet Union, especially after Moscow's Afghan allies took power in Kabul.
Washington's wager sprang, firstly, from its inability to affect the course of events and secondly, from a stupid reading of political Islam. It hoped for a reign of the most nationalistically chauvinistic trend that was closer to the allied regimes it was used to, in order to be able to export it to the neighboring Soviet Muslim republics.
However, the chaos that ensued after the Revolution resulted in the victory of the most radical trend, one that believed in implementing Khomeini's vision of wilayat al-faqih (clerical rule), openness to Arab states, and “revolutionizing” them by supporting the Palestinian people and showing hostility to Israel.
Washington's wager on turning the revolution, peacefully, into an allied Islamic regime, failed. It then resorted to another option: it supported the late Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, to alter the political formula of the region, exploiting the fear of Hussein and others of “exporting the Revolution,” which the new leaders in Tehran used as a slogan. It was a regime whose religious ideology, based on the supernatural, did not prevent from dealing with the reality, and changing it as well. It realized that it had inherited a regional superpower that acted as the policeman of the Gulf; it has tried to preserve this position, with the change in political orientations.
Thirty one years after the Revolution, and after countless American attempts to change Tehran's policies, the Iranian regime appears to be more radical. However, transformations within society have taken another direction. This is being expressed by the demonstrators today, some of whom are pillars of the regime, while others are members of a new generation that seeks a life without slogans and constant mobilization against the west. However, this movement has yet to come up with a comprehensive program that expresses its aspirations. As for its' leaders, such as Mohammad Khatami, Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, they can only offer reformist slogans that do not seek to bring about a regime that is very different from the existing one. This is unless the movement develops further and states openly its' rapprochement to the US – which would bring about its end. In such a case, the repression would be more justified and the movement would lose its ability to move the street, whose inclinations are still anti-western, in general, and more specifically anti-Washington.
In fact, the demonstrations, protests and calls for reform have provided the US and its allies with a valuable opportunity. After these were previously forced to wage a war from the outside, or direct destructive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, in the hope that chaos and regime change would result, we have now entered a phase of waiting and threatening of harsh sanctions, which would affect ordinary people so that they increase their pressure on the regime. The change that is desired and wanted seeks a regime that remains Islamic, reconciles with the US and protects its interests, even if it is more authoritarian than the current one.


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