Definitive Iran

David Warren has penned what I believe is the definitive essay on the political turmoil in Iran - it reads more like a gripping historical short story than an essay. I'll post it to the UNMEDIA mailing list also.

Some of the excerpts that drew my eye follow. But the essay deserves to be read in full.

on the resignation of Taheri and the response of the theocratic regime:

Ayatollah Taheri's five-page screed against the new tyranny was built around an apology for his own cowardice in failing to speak out before. It included an eloquent defence of Ayatollah Montazeri, the regime's most famous domestic critic, who has been under house arrest for years. In particular, it applauded Montazeri's recent "fatwah" or ruling against the practice of suicide bombing: denouncing this unambiguously as an affront to Islam.

The regime responded immediately, by banning media from reporting Taheri's resignation, and then closing a prominent Tehran newspaper for mentioning it. This hardly prevented the news from spreading.

In a further sign that the regime was losing its grip, it then confined its police to barracks in Isfahan, as it had done the previous day in Tehran -- doubting their loyalty. Instead they sent foreign thugs with paramilitary training, chiefly Palestinian and Iraqi Arabs, and Uzbeks and Tadzhiks from Afghanistan, to beat the demonstrators down. It was a desperate measure -- an implicit acknowledgement that the whole Persian people have now sided with the opposition.

on the passions of the Iranian youth in response to a lifetime of tyranny:

...almost two-thirds of the Iranian population was not yet born in 1979, when the Shah fell and Ayatollah Khomeini brought the world's first Islamist, terrorist regime to power...To the students in universities, and other young people coming of age in a time of Internet and satellite TV, the ayatollahs have nothing to say. Their parents, too, are sick to death of living under the Shia version of Islamist tyranny; but while their parents were cowed into submission, the kids refuse to sit still.

They have been told all their lives that the United States is the "Great Satan". Therefore they love America. (On the night of 9/11, huge numbers of Iranian students appeared spontaneously in the streets of many Iranian cities, carrying lighted candles to mourn the victims of Al Qaeda in New York and Washington. And there were illicit fireworks displays this year on the 4th of July.)

They have been fed from birth the most extraordinary diet of sick-in-the-head anti-Semitism. So Israel seems pretty cool to them, too.

And they have been taught that Islam -- submission to the will of Allah as interpreted by the ayatollahs -- is the whole meaning and purpose of their lives. So most are intensely secular. Or else they embrace an Islam that is increasingly apolitical, mystical, unworldly.

Despite the risk of arrest and flogging, the students actually goad the religious authorities, and dare the police -- turning out in such numbers as the police cannot handle. Girls make a point of wearing short skirts to the rallies; boys bring beer; the Stars and Stripes get unfurled, together with the Shah's old royal banner.

on the nature of the Iranian civilization, and the underlying bedrock of Shi'a Islam:

Yet the majority are also intensely Persian (Iran, more empire than nation, also contains several large minority nationalities). Here is a country that was also a civilization, that has been at or near the forefront of humane culture for several thousand years, reduced to a thugocracy. Like Italy, Greece, the culture never quite disappears, the pride in ancient -- and pre-Islamic -- accomplishments remains ever available. The Arabs could conquer and Islamicize Iran, but they never succeeded in "Arabizing" it. And chiefly Persian-speaking Shia Islam long considered itself not merely more legitimate, but more culturally advanced than its chiefly Arabic-speaking Sunni rival: a religion more of the spirit than of the sword.

In reference to this article, the Kolkata Libertarian makes an interesting and in my opinion extremely foresighted prediction about the rise of the I3 Axis - India, Iran, and Israel. Analysing Suman's idea a bit, it is interesting to note that all three are truly civilizations, not mere nations. India, Israel, and Iran all are ancient yet still have as much depth as China in its complexity, antiquity, and history.

Suman's prediction of the I3 Axis assumes that all three countries can survive the unique challenges that are facing them today. But if they do, it could easily be the rebirth of Asia and a dramatic boost to the fortunes of billions of people. As Suman observes, "we live on the edge of annihilation, and yet the future seems to hold unimaginable promises."

UPDATE 072202

Alex Frantz comments.

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