Mage Publishers

Open wounds
An interview with Gary Sick
by J. Javid
December 1995
The Iranian

Gary Sick Photo

I was more than a bit nervous going up the elevator to interview Gary Sick at his apartment in New York's Upper Westside. So was he, it seemed.

In 1979, Sick was a member of the United States National Security Council during the Carter Administration. As the director in charge of Middle East affairs, he went through what must have been the most difficult period in his life during the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Meanwhile I, in 1979, was a 17 year-old at an American high school in then West Germany, proudly cheering what I thought was a heroic act by a group of countrymen venting their anger and frustration at years of American domination in Iran.

Today, as one of the most reputable experts on Iran, Sick travels the world often lecturing on Iranian affairs. In the interview, he made it clear that what became known as the 444-day "Hostage Crisis" is still fresh in the minds of most Americans.

But Sick also conceded that Iranians should not be entirely blamed. He suggests that anti-Americanism in Iran can be traced to the CIA-engineered coup that toppled the democratic government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, the year when the U.S. "lost its virginity" in the minds of Iranians.

Nevertheless, Sick said continued hostilities between the two countries should be resolved through direct talks -- something that appears to be a distant possibility at best.

Select the topics from the list below:

U.S. Wouldn't Mind But
"Not Trying Overthrow"

The [Clinton] Administration blows hot and cold on this issue, but their official policy is certainly not one of overthrowing the government in Iran.

Although, I would think from a number of statements that have been made, it would not bother them if that happened. But in terms of a full-fledged effort to overthrow the government, it's pretty clear that they're not trying to do that.

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Iran-Bashing Popular
and Profitable

The Administration is probably the most anti-Iranian administration that has been in place -- ever.

There is no Iranian lobby in this country. No politician who says something good about Iran is going to be rewarded for it. That's just a fact of life. On the other hand, when a politician says something bad about Iran, at least no one is going to argue about it and in some cases that politician will be rewarded.

There is a deep political strain that tends to discourage something positive. Occasionally, people do say positive things. But they don't get very far; they don't get much attention.

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Talking Better
than Screaming

I think there really are things that are better talked about between the United States and Iran. My own view is that a policy of containment, without a policy of engagement to go with it, is a very, very serious mistake.

There are subjects that the United States and Iran disagree and those subjects should be talked about. I think they should be on the table and not screamed at each other in the newspapers, and yet that's what we're doing. That's not a healthy way to do it.

Also, I don't think the administration's containment policy is going to have enough teeth to change the situation in Iran. On the contrary, it mostly tends to harden the views of the hardliners in Iran who didn't want to deal with the United States in the first place and they see themselves as vindicated.

In effect the hardliners on each side (Iran and the U.S.) are their own best allies. That usually is the case, unfortunately.

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Would U.S. Agree
to Direct Talks?

I don't know. I'm not a government official and I don't feel very comfortable predicting what the administration would do in this or that case.

Let's go back just a little bit. I think an event like that happened and it happened in 1990 when Iran chose to stay out of the [Persian] Gulf war when the United States came in with huge forces.

Iran had always taken the position that it didn't want outside involvement in [Persian] Gulf affairs. But Iran kept quiet. It didn't try to mess things up.

I think that was understood very clearly in the White House by President Bush, who made the comment that "Goodwill begets goodwill." There was a making there of a possible meeting of minds. It seemed Iran was moderating its policy and the United States was letting bygones be bygones.

I've always felt that if Bush had stayed in power, chances would have been greater of some kind of an opening relationship. It would have been complicated and tricky, but I think there was some will to do it. As far as I can tell, President Clinton was never interested in anything like that.

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Washington Rejected
Iran's "Friendly" Signals

Iran's foreign policy has in fact evolved remarkably. This is a fact that is almost entirely overlooked in the United States.

[Washington has failed to see] the changes that have taken place in Iran; the fact that Iran on two major occasions in the last two years has attempted to really open up more normal relations with the United States -- certainly with regard to commerce.

They expressed interest in buying Boeing aircraft, right after [President] Clinton was elected and then later, selected Conoco as a potential economic partner to open up gas fields. In both cases, they were rebuffed by the United States, which, I'm sorry about, but that's the way it has gone.

In any case, the fact was that for Iran, it was a difficult political decision to identify an American company -- and they did it for commercial reasons too; they weren't going to lose money or get a shoddy product.

But the fact that they had selected prominent American companies to do business with, was clearly a signal, as far as I was concerned. I was very disappointed that the United States rejected those.

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Hostage Crisis
Not Forgotten

The reality of politics in [the United States] is that Iran made itself as unpopular as any country possibly could. The hostage crisis has not been forgotten. At all. It is still very much alive.

I make speeches and talk to groups and I'm always amazed because when I speak to them it's as if the hostage crisis just happened yesterday. It's hard to believe that it's been 13, 14 years since it's been over. But in many people's minds it's just not over.

[Secretary of State Warren Christopher] would deny that that's why he is so critical of Iran. But even if he said that, personally, this has no effect on him, I wouldn't really believe it.

I was part of his group and involved in those [hostage] negotiations. It left a mark on me and it left a mark on everybody involved.

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Paying a Price for
"Deliberate Humiliation"

When a country deliberately and for its own purposes sets out to humiliate a superpower, they have to figure that there's going to be a price attached to that. And what you are seeing now -- I'm over simplifying -- is the price of the hostage crisis, and many other things.

In my point of view that's not a good basis to make policy. But on the other hand, Iran's policy-making, when they [took hostages], was even crazier. We had plenty of opportunities to end the hostage crisis earlier, with everybody saving face, but Iran refused to consider any of this.

So, what you are seeing now is in some respects a sort of counter-part backlash on the part of the United States. I think people in Iran need to understand that there is a history here and the history is not just going to go away; it's not going to evaporate. It's going to take some kind of major event to change [things].

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Need "Dramatic" Event
to Change Iran's Image

People get an image fixed in their mind. And the image of Iran is the image of 1980. That's the image people carry with them in this country and much of the world.

For Iran to change that image, takes many of the kinds of things they are doing now; they are behaving in a much more responsible manner in regard to international organizations and the prosecution of their foreign policy.

But to really change that image it would take some kind of dramatic event and I don't know what that could be.

But when, for instance, Iran says the United States should act first and that Iran has already taken all the steps necessary, I understand what [Iranians] are saying and I watch what's going on and I see a certain logic to it.

But I also know that popular thinking [in the U.S.] is not going to go away because [the popular perception is that] Iran is [only] trying to have some kind of commercial contact with the United States and so forth.

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CIA Coup's
"Virulent" Consequences

There was a whole body of academic scholarship in the United States that was immensely critical of the 1953 events for many many years. That view is still widely shared.

In the academic community, I wouldn't say that it's 100 percent by any means but I would say there is a very strong body of informed opinion that it was an action that was taken for immediate political objectives.

It achieved those in a sense, in keeping the Shah for a number of years, and that served U.S. interests in may, many ways. But it also created a severe distortion of the political system, which came back in a very virulent way later on and has created an immense number of problems.

Remember, covert actions are not widely publicized. They are known in many cases and talked about in the academic community. But I don't think most Americans are aware [of the '53 events].

If I'm not mistaken, there was even a big discussion about the the history of that period. The United States [government] publishes this volume of foreign affairs papers [every year]. [Mosaddeq's overthrow] happened 40 some years ago and that's usually long enough to make them available. But the Reagan Administration refused to make even the basic papers on the subject available.

So, it's still a very sensitive thing and not very widely known to most Americans. I mean, all Iranians are aware of it intimately. This is a major event in time that shaped the history of the country.

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CIA Coup --> Hostage Crisis

In some respects, I see the Mosaddeq event, as a sort of an earlier counterpart to the hostage crisis; that it set the tone for a particular kind of relationship; it created an image.

The United States image in Iran up to [1953] was one of a benign, friendly, helpful power -- a power that wasn't trying to involve itself like the British or the Russians and others.

The United States lost its virginity in 1953. And that, in many ways, has shaped the attitude of Iranians toward the United States ever since and I don't think there's a good understanding of that in the United States. There are some people who do; people who work on Iran or focus on it, but it isn't something that is well understood.

But it is a kind of earlier counterpart to the hostage crisis. A major event that changed people's thinking [about the U.S.]; changed the image so powerfully that it became very difficult to change and it's quite possible to draw a line from '53 to the hostage crisis and later on.

These events are not separate from each other. They are in fact linked by historical movements. Unfortunately, history has a way of running its own course and it doesn't listen to arguments and discussions that are going on.

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"Evil Empire"

It's very much like the days of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Obviously Iran has not replaced the Soviet Union as America's No. 1 enemy. Although in the [Persian] Gulf it has.

Just like the Soviet Union, in the days of the Cold War, anyone who tried to argue for more moderation, for paying attention to what the Soviets were really saying, mostly lost the argument.

It was much easier to say the Soviet Union is the Evil Empire and it's got to be opposed at all costs with everything we've got and that's the only way that you can make any progress. I see the same kind of process in Iran's case.

There's a kind of fervor about the opposition to Iran which has been built up by the [Clinton] Administration itself; by its actions, by it's rhetoric, and so forth, which has made it very popular to attack Iran. It's going to take a lot to change that.

Remember that the attitudes toward the Soviet Union didn't change until there was a complete change or breakdown of the system. I don't think we're at a point where that is what is called for or even necessarily desired.

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Vocal Iranian

Probably a better analogy for Iran, unfortunately, is Cuba.

With the Cuban issue, there is a very powerful, vocal minority of people in this country, who care about Cuba more than anything else in the world and who want only to bring down Castro and his regime.

It's not exactly parallel, but there are a lot of people in this country, who are a very vocal minority, who feel very much the same way about Iran. In fact the [Clinton] Administration has encouraged that.

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Subversive Iran
"Thing of the Past"

Iran today is not conducting the kind of widespread subversive activities as it was before. In the beginning, it was pretty clear there were a lot of people in Iran actively trying to overthrow the governments surrounding Iran -- the Arab states of the [Persian] Gulf and elsewhere.

That is simply not the case anymore. Part of that is not because they have changed their mind but because they are out of money. And it is expensive to do these things.

They have also learned that it is very costly in other ways as well, to go meddling in other people's affairs -- they will strike back at you. This turned out to be a very self-defeating process.

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Hopeful Signs in
Iran's Foreign Policy

There are a lot of hopeful signs. I think Iran's policies in regards to Central Asia have been very pragmatic and sensible and oriented toward national interests. There's been nothing radically disruptive. If anything, Iran has been very helpful.

It has acted as a mediator in a number of different disputes and has actually been very helpful to the countries of the region and has not been perceived as a threat by most of the countries in Central Asia.

The same is true with Russia. The Russians are beginning to develop a slightly distant, but nevertheless a real relationship with Iran. So, I think Iran's foreign policy there has been quite good.

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U.N. No Longer
Seen as Enemy

Iran's policy in, say, the last ten years -- certainly since 1988 -- has changed dramatically with regard to the United Nations and its role. Instead of fighting the U.N. and treating it as the enemy, they are thinking about how to participate in the U.N. and turn it to their own advantage.

The end of the war [with Iraq] in 1988 with [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 598, was a classic example of how they took what was viewed as a hostile Security Council resolution and, in the final analysis, turned it to their benefit. And I think this was an important turning point.

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Israel Senses
"Imminent" Threat

In many respects, perception is nine-tenths of reality. I've talked to a number of Israelis in the last year and asked them what their view really is. I've been really surprised to discover that there really is a sense of imminent threat on the part of Israel in regard to Iran.

To me this is sort of bewildering because Israel always had a policy of cooperating with Iran. I think what's happened, is that the Israeli policy in the past was this policy of the periphery where you'd say, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." And Iran was the enemy of Iraq.

Iraq was [geographically] very close to Israel and therefore Iran was just outside the circle of hostile states. Israel felt that this was a deliberate, well-developed policy to cooperate with Turkey, with Ethiopia and with Iran as states that were just outside the periphery of Arab hostility.

With the defeat of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was subtracted from this equation and Iraq isn't-- at least in the short-term -- viewed as a threat to anybody as long as the U.N. is there.

So, the old argument for the reasons why you would cooperate with Iran went by the way side and there was a major shift in Israeli thinking, which said "even if we don't like the government in Iran, we need to deal with it." That logic simply collapsed in 1990/91.

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Leading Opponent
of Peace Process

A number of other things have happened as well. Iran is the leading opponent of the peace process. It is one of the few countries of the world that really speaks out openly on this subject.

And it's not only talk. You've got Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and others that are carrying out operations in southern Lebanon and in Israel.

Whether or not Iran is directly involved in those operations is less important than the fact that Iran cheers them on, in effect, and applauds what they do. So, Israel sees Iran as a menace operating through these other organizations.

In any event, there are a whole series of geopolitical and other events that are taking place and Israel's policy has now really changed dramatically to one of total hostility.

I don't believe that Israel thinks that Iran has the military reach to attack them. But because of the [Iranian] rhetoric, I think they do think very much about the so-called nuclear program in Iran and the fact that Iran is very openly trying to get missiles. And longer-range missiles.

[Israel] would really not like it if Iran got either nuclear or chemical weapons and missiles that would reach as far as Israel. This is what they're trying to stop in every way they can.

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Blame for
Missing Israeli

I see a very genuine feelings in Israel, which a lot of people don't talk about very much. [Israeli Air Force] aviator Ron Arad has been missing for years and years and years and [there's a feeling] that Iran is responsible for his continuing invisibility. I think in effect he's being held hostage.

I don't know the facts. If Arad is alive, he's probably not in Lebanon any longer because there's no place you can hold a hostage in Lebanon anymore. It's become difficult.

That makes you ask, "So where is he then?" There are very few logical answers to that, and Iran is certainly one of them. Israel, at least, believes he's in Iranian hands; whether he's in Iran or not is secondary.

In fact [the Israelis] have had a couple of negotiations -- proximity talks -- with Iran in Germany and elsewhere about this. I think the emotional aspect of that should not be overlooked.

Although they're not tying yellow ribbons all over Israel, it is a very live issue and Israel makes it a point to do everything in its power to try to get its people back when something happens to them. That drives a lot of policy.

There's a lot that goes on with regard to Israel and Iran that is affected by this because many of the people who are making policy are people whose jobs it is to try to get [Arad] back and they're whole attitude toward Iran is affected.

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Nuclear Program:
Guilty by Suspicion

It is my working assumption that Iran is building a nuclear infrastructure that would give it the capability to go for a nuclear weapon at some point in the future if they decide to do so.

It's not just the nuclear power plant [under construction in Bushehr]. They're trying to buy other equipment and other things too.

Generally, there's a rule of thumb in the non-proliferation community which is that any country seriously suspected of having a nuclear program, has a nuclear program.

That's an empirical judgment. Almost every country that has been suspected of having a nuclear program has in fact been proved later to have had one: Iraq, Pakistan, South Africa, you name it. They've all denied it. They've said "we're not doing anything; it's purely peaceful."

In Iran's case, there isn't a very hard case to be made for a nuclear program because Iran really has very substantial other forms of energy that are far more efficient.

I mean, with Iran's gas reserves and the kind of new technologies that is available now for electricity generation with gas turbines, [the potential] is just extraordinary. And Iran is one of the best countries in the world to put that new technology to work.

Iran's gas reserves, by any standards at all, will last for another century. So, for Iran to turn to nuclear power as a secondary means, is not convincing and people will start asking questions about it.

If you start looking at the billions of dollars that Iran is going to invest in nuclear power; the dangers involved in a country that is fraught with earthquakes; the future costs that countries like the United States and others are experiencing as they try to clean up after themselves; the problems that come up when the power plants run their course and you try to decommission them, the costs are immense. You can't just turn them off and walk away.

Iran is facing a very uneconomical program of electrical generation by nuclear power when it has other alternatives that are at least as good and far cleaner and the long-term costs are far less. Then you have to ask why are they bothering with this [nuclear power]?

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Iran has Nuclear
Rights, but...

Iran is actually pursuing a number of alternative energy sources; thermal, hydroelectric and a lot of others. And they technically have the right -- according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- to nuclear power in a peaceful way and there's nothing illegal about that.

But as I say, in the past the experience has been that when countries are behaving in a rather suspicious way that doesn't seem to make a great deal of economic sense, it turns out in the end that that's what they've been doing.

Iran can only anticipate that it is going to raise a lot of serious suspicions by its behavior.

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Shah's Nuclear
Military Program?

A lot of people suspected what the Shah was up to. I don't know for a fact if that was what he was doing.

But I do know that he was in fact involved in a missile development program with Israel. The missile only made sense if it had an explosive warhead that was being developed by Israel. It made no tactical or strategic sense.

I see Iran in effect doing very much the same thing, only this time substituting North Korea for Israel. The same process that the Shah was pursuing -- a collaborative effort to build a long-range missile system -- is being done by the present government. And of course the Bushehr nuclear plant is a continuation of the Shah's initial plans.

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Silencing Soroush
Step Backwards

I've heard some interesting discussions about the upcoming (Majlis) elections. There was real hope that the system will open up and provide more freedom of expression. Regretfully, I don't think it has worked that way. If anything, they seem to be tightening up on newspapers, magazines, the media and individuals.

I was very disappointed with the way Abdolkarim Soroush has been handled. I think he's really one of the most respected intellectuals in the Middle East. He should have a wider range of people listening to him -- in the Arab world as well as in Iran. And the fact that his lectures have been closed down, and he's been threatened and so forth, is a very bad step backwards.

Up until recently, he published articles and made speeches. Not anymore. He's not in Iran now. I don't want to dwell on the details of his case. He can speak for himself. But the fact is that he's -- at least for the moment -- been silenced in Iran and his material isn't being published anymore. He's not speaking and he had been harassed very badly at the end of this period, to the point that he was beginning to fear for his life.

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Church-State Debate

There's been a lot of interesting talk about the tension between Church and State in Iran. That's one of the areas I find most interesting. That's why I was thinking about the Soroush case.

It seems to me he's been saying some really interesting things. It may not be what the regime wants to hear, but nevertheless it is a very important voice.

This is an issue that goes right to the heart of what the revolution was about and where it came from and also where it's going. More and more, the clergy in Iran seem to be finding themselves dividing between the State clergy and a Church, or Mosque, clergy and I don't think that's very healthy.

I think, it's unhealthy for the clergy. I think it's unhealthy, probably for Islam; certainly it's unhealthy for the state.

What the critics are saying, in a very abbreviated form, is that the kind of compromises, the kind of decisions that one has to make as someone who's running a country, is contrary to the nature of religion, which sort of says "this is right and this is wrong." [In religion,] there's a sharp dividing line. In governing, the lines are not that clear.

One must make compromises. You have to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. In the process, I think, people who are ruling in the name of religion, and who are making these necessary compromises, have to compromise religion itself.

So, religion tends to be seen as not a clear cut, "right" or "wrong", but rather a matter of a little compromise here, a little change there.

What I've been surprised to see is that even in the seminaries in Qom and elsewhere, they are looking very hard at this issue. Even among the clergy themselves, it is [seen] as an issue that needs to be resolved, if Iran is to figure out where it goes from here.

I'm not so sure there's a right or wrong position on this, but it's one of those issues that has to be addressed.

At many of the conferences that I've gone to, in the smaller discussion groups that I've participated in, this is one of the issues that always comes up, which again, I don't think anyone that I've talked to has offered a solution to this.

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"Leading Edge"

[Soroush] is obviously on the leading edge of this debate. I don't think the society is always debating this. When people sit down at dinner at night, I don't think they necessarily talk about [Church, State issues]. They talk about bread and butter issues.

The reason why this issue, this debate, is important is because it goes to the very soul of the revolution. What is the revolution? Where is it going?

We're seeing the seeds of new directions, signals of changes or questions. These kinds of questions are important. That's why these kinds of debates are absolutely crucial, even though they may not be something that nobody in the streets is demonstrating about, but there really shouldn't be. This should be a reflective, thoughtful debate.

My feeling was that Soroush was leading that debate, in effect posing the questions, thinking deeply about the course of events and that's why I'm very disappointed that his views, instead of being listened to and debated seriously and in a civilized way, are treated as a threat and that he's being harassed. I don't think that's how you deal with this kind of thing.

Although I do understand that the questions he was raising were very troubling as far as the government was concerned. But they would be better off dealing with them out front and making their case, rather than trying to silence them.

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Islamic Republic
A Test Case

Iran [is] a sort of laboratory. There are very few countries in the world where the clergy rules; where you've in fact had a genuine revolution in the name of religion and where the State is becoming fused with Religion in a way that the two are really inseparable.

As a result, many of the decisions, many of the paths taken by Iran, reflect a new experiment in governing. No one should be surprised that mistakes are made and people in Iran are the first to admit that they're quite capable of making mistakes. But I think the stakes are very high.

The Iranian model doesn't stand as a very attractive model for much of the rest of the developing world -- I see nobody rushing to adopt the same kind of forms that exist in Iran. Nevertheless, these are fundamental experiments that are going on, where the Church and State are absolutely intertwined and there are very basic, fundamental questions of governance that are being addressed in a new way in Iran.

In some respects if the rest of the world is not looking, they should be looking. Because with all the turmoil and all the calls for Islamic government everywhere, this is one of the few places where it actually exists in exactly those terms. There are very interesting lessons to be learned.

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"Genuine Religious"

There's a famous story that André Malraux, the famous French historian, visited China a number of years ago. In the course of meeting [Premier] Zhou Enlai, Malraux asked him what was his judgment about the French Revolution. Zhou thought about that a little bit and his answer was, "well, it's too early to tell!"

The fact is, revolutions go through changes. They start out in one direction and then other things happen. In fact, genuine revolutions really disrupt the normal pattern of events to such a degree that they often develop new directions which you never quite know where that new direction is going to be. That's why I think revolutions are both interesting and important.

The Iranian case is the only case I know of in the world where there was a genuine revolution -- not a coup, or a takeover by another group -- a popular revolution, which adopted the concepts of religious rule as part of the revolution.

[Iran] is a place in the world that the rest of the world should pay attention to because of the way it goes and it is too early to tell what is going to happen with the Iranian revolution.

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Revolution is Over
- Sort of

Well, as Zhou Enlai said, [the revolution] is never over. And it's true. Modern France today is shaped by events that happened 200 years ago. So you're never over it in that sense.

But in the sense of the exaggerated hostility to the world; the certainty that Iran had all the answers to everything; that's over.

You know, [Ayatollah] Khomeini said that the revolution was not about the price of melons. Today, it's pretty much about the price of melons. That's what's going on in Iran.

People aren't arguing great revolutionary issues, they're arguing about wages and consumer goods and jobs. That's what it's about. That's much less exciting than going out in the streets and demonstrating every day. That part of it, seems to me, to be over.

But clearly, the structure of debates about anything is shaped by the revolution. Because the way you argue an issue in Iran is not the way it was argued before the revolution. Issues like the pragmatics of economics is argued in revolutionary terms. So, the rhetoric is still there.

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Can't Blame Brits
or Yankees Anymore

As far as I'm concerned, the Iranian revolution has transformed Iran. And the really good thing about the revolution is that it has given Iran a genuine sense of itself -- that it runs its own affairs; that it doesn't look to this foreign power or that foreign power to make things happen.

In some respects, that's a very lonely position because in the old days you could always talk about "well, it's the British making this happen or the Americans." Now it's the Iranians. No more excuses to fall back on. I think that's really healthy.

I think having arrived at that point, is one of the triumphs of the revolution and it should be held on to as something very precious.

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"Massive Terror"

Iran, it seems to me, has gone through the traditional evolutions that revolutions go through -- the changes, the transformations -- much more quickly than most other revolutions. If you look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, they were still going on hot and heavy 20, 30 years later.

Sixteen years after the Russian Revolution took place -- that would be 1933 -- [Russia was in] the middle of Stalin's purges. I mean, people were being killed by the million and sent off to labor camps. It was a grim, terrible, terrible time that Russia was going through.

And in China, for many years they had the Long March and then The Great Leap Forward and they had a whole range of incidents and the revolution was still going on in a remarkable way, including massive killings and the like.

In Iran, there's a lot of abuses of human rights; people are put in prison for the wrong reasons; they are treated very badly in many cases; there are cases like the Soroush business where people are silenced because they are saying things the regime doesn't want to hear.

But nobody would argue that in Iran hundreds of thousands of people are being rounded up and killed or sent off to labor camps or any of this kind of stuff, which really went on in the French Revolution with the Terror and it went on in Russia and China and all major revolutions.

Iran seems to have bypassed that or overcome it. This is one of the things that I personally see as a hopeful sign. That is, because it didn't go through these tragic events to the same degree as the other revolutions, there's a possibility of Iran sort of turning into a more normal state more rapidly.

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Iran's Worst Enemy

I don't think there are any viable alternatives [to the Islamic Republic]. I'm not aware of any alternative political grouping that I would regard as a major threat.

The regime in Tehran is its own worst enemy. There's nothing from the outside that's nearly as threatening to it as its own behavior at various times.

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The Mojahedin [Khalq] I see basically as an Iraqi-dominated group that is in some respects working for [President] Saddam Hussein -- it certainly works at his pleasure because he could cut them off at any point.

They're quite effective propagandists; they have a ready audience in the West -- parliamentarians and others -- who are willing to listen to them. I've just never taken them seriously. As far as I can tell, they have no support inside Iran at all.

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Reza Pahlavi

He's a very attractive young man and clearly the language he uses is that of real parliamentary monarchy and democracy and human rights and so forth. I expect that inside Iran there are a number of people who might find him very attractive.

But I don't think he commands any troops if he were called back [to Iran] at some stage -- which I don't perceive it happening -- but stranger things have happened. I mean we're now talking [Zaher Shah] the [former] king of Afghanistan may be called back. Strange things happen.

I could imagine [Pahlavi] under some scenario being called back. A lot of things would have to happen first, but let's assume. I think [if he does make it back] it would be as a figurehead and as a way of bringing together factions under an umbrella of the monarchy without the old realities of the monarchy.

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Related links

* Building trust -- An interview with Gary Sick. (November 1997)
* THE IRANIAN Opinion section
* THE IRANIAN Interviews section
* Who's who
* Cover stories


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