The King, The Imam and The President

The story of the Islamic Republic’s rise, owes it’s origins to its allies’ betrayal of the Middle East’s (once) only democracy.

The United States’ business savvy President, Donald Trump, met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Tuesday, and according to international news, Trump is on a collision course with Tehran.

“…Trump is also unhappy that Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the Middle East, including its sponsorship of proxy militias in Arab countries, aren’t covered by the agreement. Iran’s regional rise has particularly alarmed Israel and Saudi Arabia, two staunch allies of the United States.” Politico reports.


International political allegiances are a strange thing. Iranians and Arabs are not always the best off friends, still the Iranian government seems to support Arab militias that benefit their interest.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative Islamic regimes on earth, and one of the main exporters of Wahhabi clerics. While Israel, a Jewish state which has a person like Avigdor Lieberman (who, while seeming both progressive and open minded towards Arabs compared to hardline Israelis, has argued for new borders to be drawn based on an ethnic divide) as its defence minister – both are the regions closest US allies.

The US, however, who has waged a war on terrorism for nearly seventeen years, while having one of the world’s main ideological sources of Islamic terrorism as one of it’s closets allies in the region – at the same time as one of the prime targets of Wahhabi clerics’ wrath is the other – Has no apparent difficulty juggling the two.

Iran also has an axe to grind in regards of the Jewish state: one where the theocracy in charge of political, spiritual and temporal life, has put out threats of wiping Israel off the map.

– When the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, it was a historic moment. The Iranian government and people alike believed that Iran finally would be able to open itself up towards the world again. Now they see that the Americans do not keep their promises. That’s how it’s viewed from an Iranian perspective, and the conclusion is that the only ones that can be trusted is themselves.

The statement above was given by Norwegian journalist, author and former news anchor, Mah-Rukh Ali, at a talk on Iran and its role in the world, in the past, the present, and in the future. She has written a new book on the subject, titled Iran and The New Middle East (available in Norwegian)

She went on to explain how the Islamic Revolution of 1979 came to pass, as she rhetorically asks: “How, and why, did the Persian people, a liberal, secular people, come to voluntarily choose a theocracy as their form of governance, one where all democratic institutions disappeared with the stroke of a pen?”

She rewinds to the 1950’s, and tells the story of a democratically elected leader, named Mohammad Mossadegh, who was not a communist, nor was he supported by a foreign power. He was a nationalist who was concerned with strengthening democratic institutions, and who at the time was the most popular leader the country had ever seen. He had studied law in Paris and Switzerland, he was charismatic and also had ties to the previous royal dynasty, the Qajar dynasty.

Everything was set for Iran becoming the first real and functioning democracy in the Middle East, already in the 1950’s, she explains.

Mossadegh’s mistake, however, was not taking into consideration the foreigners in the country at the time. The oil refinery was at the time under British ownership, and was by the Brits considered a national treasure.

The Americans had forged an allegiance with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, now known and referred to simply as the Shah, who after 2500 years of continuous monarchy, became the last Persian king. The Soviet Union was there, the Germans were involved, there were many countries with interests in Iran at the time. But what Mossadegh does, as any true democratic leader with his country and people in mind would, and should do, is to nationalise the oil, in 1951.

Which was a turning point. A fortunate one for Iran’s future economy, but unfortunate for the Iranian democracy. As well as for Mossadegh himself. The British and the Americans saw in Mossadegh, someone who challenged their foothold in the country.

So they join forces to orchestrate a coup d’état, which ends up deposing the prime minister, replacing him with a general.

Mossadegh is impeached, and eventually dies in his home in Ahmadabad, where he for his last remaining years lived under the supervision of two intelligence officers from the Shah’s secret service.

Why is the story of Mossadegh and the Iranian democracy that once was, and could have been, not told or remembered by neither Western or Eastern narratives? Because it is not in the interest of the powers that overthrew him, nor in the interest of the Islamists that ultimately benefited from him being overthrown.

The story of how Mossadegh was denied attending his wife’s funeral, by a king who was internationally seen as an indecisive man without moral strength, who later adopted the policies and views of the prime minister he once helped depose, and how the said minister’s followers were put under governmental surveillance and persecuted by the Shah, later to be taken back into the warmth by a king who grew more and more progressive – the story of how the Islamic revolution could come into being, is for many an untold one.

And while the story of Mossadegh, the Shah, and the demise of them both is a long one – Ultimately, the story of Iran, the Theocratic rule, it’s rise, it’s potential fall, and the seemingly, however illusory, unshakable friendship between the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, is, like all things that starts with financial motives, a financial one.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard, created by Ayatollah Khomeini to protect the state and the values of the revolution, and which, by some, is now considered to be a state within the state, owns and controls a vast amount, by some estimates more than one third, of the Iranian economy.

Lifting the international economic sanctions on Iran, benefits the people, but it ultimately harms the regime and it’s wallet, as opening the country up for international business would threaten the regime’s economic ownership to important parts of the economy.

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