To combat the seemingly infinite occupation by imperialist forces, some Middle Eastern actors seek to dominate the region to the degree of establishing an impregnable force wherewith no external or foreign power could contend. Founded upon an Islamic religio-political axiom with theocratic implications, some governmental movements, or revivals, such as Khomeini’s Iranian Revolution (1979), emphasize an entirely Medina-style reorientation of society, instituting shariaas a panacea for societal ills. Overall, the concept of a rightful arbiter of justice surrounds the entire debacle of imperial institutions (e.g. monarchy, democracy) versus Islamic adjudication. This paper will focus on the development of Iran’s fundamentalist polity and its history culminating in the rise of pro-apocalyptic governance as well as its current implications and role in the international arena.
Safavid to Pahlavi: 1501-1926
Shah Ismail’s (of the Safavid empire) savagery across sixteenth century Persia, purging the land of non-Shii infidels, birthed the age of dynastic machines, eventuating in the conception of two more dynasties (e.g. Qajarand Pahlavi) until their dissolution and establishment of the current modem and propagator of Shii Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East—the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a perpetual state of turmoil and geo-political penetration from external/foreign forces, inhabitants of this region desperately seek stability in religion, secularism, modernity, industry, and/or traditionalism. The current conflict between Iran and its neighbors, however, stems from decades, and even centuries, of infighting and brooding animosity between the Shii and Sunni sects. Moreover, the sporadic indigenous Kurds complicates matters as Britain and French forces compulsorily integrated ethno-sectarian groups with others to create either a democratic-esque or monarchical political entity, despite the region’s patent lack of a federalist ideology.Viewing the Ottoman Empire’s sultanic regimes as imperialist, Arabs and inhabitants of the Greater Middle East (e.g. Iran, Turkey) settle for avaricious authoritarian rulers with anti-Western, and even anti-modernity, rhetoric to sate the immediate discontentment with colonial-influenced, venal leaders. It is therefore incumbent upon the people of the partitioned Ottoman Empire to Arabize and self-economize, thus the spread of nationalism throughout the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In 1925, Reza Khan, father of the Pahlavi dynasty, Colonel in the Russian-trained, Persian Cossack Brigade assumed power after instigating a coup, proclaiming himself Shah of Iran.Efforts to consolidate the nation under a non-tribal state with a well-developed economy and secular institutions (e.g. state-run schools, bureaucracy, anti-religious dictums) to promulgate Westernization soon ensued. Reza (Khan) Shah’s affinity with European wear and jurisprudence precipitated in the plagiarism and implementation of the nearly identical French Civil and Italian Penal Codes.By restricting hajjand Shii rituals (i.e. including clothing such as hijab)and authorizing the education and equal opportunity of women in public facilities, the Shah grew vastly unpopular with his religious conservative subjects. Furthermore, the historically amicable relationship with Britain, however, precipitated in unfortunate losses for the nascent Iranian state as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC)subsumed much of the incurring profits, hijacking much of the revenue and stifling potential economic growth from the now-flailing authoritarian regime. Reza Shah’s pro-German sentimentsand efforts to counter British and Soviet intrusion led to Iran’s imminent invasion and decimation of “[t]he pampered Iranian army,”prompting him to implore, at the behest of Britain, for his son’s preservation and placement on the throne in his stead, thus securing the dynasty’s legacy.
To hamper growing vitriol toward the decadent regime, Muhammad Reza Shah, son of the late Reza Shah, preserved the constituent body, or Majlis,(i.e. Parliament) to mollify the masses yet continued to manipulate legislation, thus rendering it an ostensible wing of national power, as did his father,for personal expediency. Parties were therein conceived and various groups such as the pro-Soviet, Marxist Tudeh (Masses) Partybolstered support from the proletariat class against the AIOC and the Shah’s secular, anti-religious government. In 1951, Muhammad Mosaddiq of the pro-democracy National Front Party, running on an anti-Anglo platform and the nationalization of Iran’s natural resources independent of foreign investment/influence, was elected Prime Minister and ousted the Shah.
“Fearing that Mosaddiq had lost control of the situation in Iran and that the revived Tudeh would lead the country into the Soviet camp, Washington, with assistance from London, dispatched CIA agents to Tehran to assist the Iranian officers in organizing a coup against Mosaddiq.”
Muhammad Reza Shah, colluding with the CIA, was restored to power in 1953 and resumed his authoritarian rule until his deposition in 1979.
Pahlavi to Khomeini: 1926-1979
Often times, religious conservatism acts as a catalyst for anti-authoritarianism and pro-revolution. To aptly implement Islam into daily life with efficacy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in concert with the sweeping revivalism rampant across the Middle East and North Africa,proposed in his manifesto entitled, “Vilayati-i Faqih: Hukomat-i Islami (Government of the Islamic Jurist),”a Qur’anic utopiawhere the ulamadictates law, authorizing rigid shariaas the rudder for economic growth, to curb rampant crime,and adjudicate righteouslybereft of Western ideals polluting the social/theological paradigm, paradoxically inhibiting freedom and stifling political diversity.Khomeini’s charisma galvanized students and urbanites alike to oppose the Shah’s secular policies, calling for his removal and execution.Finally, as mounting demonstrations and concentrated support for Khomeini intensified, Muhammad Reza Shah abdicated and fled the country in January of 1979, leaving his post to the newly appointed Prime Minister—Shapour Bakhtiar.This, however, didn’t last as the ayatollah, without contest and accompanied by myriad protesters, wrested power at the denouement of the revolution the following month. Since Khomeini’s fundamentalist/revivalist philosophy materialized into legal doctrine, the pro-apocalyptic,Shii Islamic republic has played a primary role in the monetary dispensation and promulgation of terrorism and Middle Eastern proxy wars.
Summary and Conclusion
Overall, since the Safavid empire/dynasty of the sixteenth century, extending into present day through violent political and military upheavals, Iran, a locus of Middle Eastern power, finds itself a rather astute contender among the international hegemonies. Established on compulsory religiosity, secular (authoritarian) monarchy, democracy, secular (authoritarian) monarchy again, and now austere theocracy, the Iranian people’s exposure to religious and secular philosophies is paramount, as the political climate continually evolve. This political oscillation isn’t anomalous, as the Middle East’s past is rife with internal and external contention. Though an aberrant force in the volatile region, it is the most stable, despite its ubiquitously dubious machinations.