The Iranian Revolution's Third Phase


by IranWrites

Almost at the end of the third decade of the Iranian Revolution, it seems it is about the time to demystify what was for three decade intentionally confused and mystified. The whole world was shocked at the birth of this “monster” that no one knew anything about. American president Jimmy Carter said “he was surprised.” The deposed Shah of Iran seemed woken up by a nightmare. Empress Farah in her memoir claimed that “they had no clue about it.” The journalists went to Iran and returned with their mouths gaping in awe or dismay. The experts, with their display of shock, added to an already existing enigma and sense of mystery which the public sees around the Islamic Republic of Iran. And we Iranians did not do any better. All of us were waiting for a hint from those whom we thought were a little closer to religion, like Mehdi Bazargan. He did give us directions, though they were wrong. He was as shocked as everyone else. His Islam was very different from what was born and growing so fast, yet he still endorsed it.

Several books on Shiism were news even to us Iranian. The clerics in Qom were given the status of Oxford and Cambridge dons by one western scholar, and Qom was described as another Heidelberg or Sorbonne. Iran and Iranians and clerics and Shiite Islam all fused into each others, wrapped up in a halo of mystery, and each expert and each journalist only added another layer. The whole country and its people became so unfamiliar even to us that I did not even dare to go back home, like many of us, for over twenty years.

The most distressing of all were non-Muslim scholars who were so zealous and defensive of the Islamic Republic and completely denied the sufferings of secular Iranians. Most of them became apologists for the Islamic Republic, as if criticizing it meant denouncing their own existence. Mandatory Islamic hejab for women was a horrifying imposition but was taken so lightly, the family laws changing to laws of Shari’a was another which was not given any attention, the problem of the religious minority, particularly the Bahai’s, was dismissed and the international community averted its eyes. I do not recall any of the Iranian (non-opposition) or Western scholars gave any weight to these matters except en passant. They defended the Islamic Republic so firmly and strongly that one wondered why they didn’t join the club and convert. Anne Marie Schimmel was at least honest enough to say “I prefer my glass of wine.”

On the other hand, there were those who made Iranians out to be some strange, somehow dangerous, species. I will never forget, night after night, listening to the news and commentators talking about “Allah,” as if Shiites worshiped some genie. I never figured out why it became a problem to understand that just as God is an English world for the deity, whom the French call Dieu and the Greeks, Theo and the Russians, Bog, some Iranian use the Arabic term Allah, though they themselves have one hundred and one names for Him in their own language—Khoda, Izad, and Yazdan being the most common. A simple matter as such was turned into a puzzle and amusing games for the nighttime shows on TV; and alas none of those experts in Shiism came to help.

Then came the “confusion” period, when every single sentence uttered by any of those clerics came as a mystified code which needed to be decoded, even simple words, such as moderate, money, punishments, apology, and independent. After every speech by Imam Khomeini or the Friday Imams of the time, everybody would fall over the Shiite dictionary to unravel its meaning. Then would come the analysis of the experts from various levels of the State Department or those think tanks in Washington D.C. or all the Middle Eastern Studies departments of the universities in the United States. It is interesting that after some thirty years, people are still referring to that the famous saying of Khomeini, who wished to “cut the hands of foreigner,” although this was simply a literary mistranslation of an expression used in Iran equivalent to “talking one’s hands off something.”

The whole artificial attempt to “understand them” was not only unhelpful, but only added to the confusion. These attempts not only did not help us be understood, but compounded the misunderstanding. They mislead the public to a misconception that the Iranians got what they ask for and what they deserve: They want to be ruled by mullahs, they want to go backward, they like having their hands cut off, they want to be told how to perform every step of their most trivial affairs of life. Once, watching a documentary on PBS about the Iran-Iraq war, the reporter interviewed an Iranian war veteran on wheelchair. We could hear the veteran’s line being fed to him by his minder, i.e. that everything was staged. We wrote to PBS and reminded them of their obligation of professional honesty and pointed out to them the futility of such phony documentaries. Some PBS flack wrote back that if a “nation” wants to portray itself as such we have to cooperate and air it as they wanted! A strange sense of professionalism indeed!

In the last few years there were few books by journalists, The Last Great Revolution (at least its last half), Persian Mirrors, Neither East Nor West, and The Rose Garden of Martyrs, or travelogues, which tried to depart from the apologetic tradition of the academics and Middle East experts of the first two decades. However, each one of them very cautiously took off only one layer of the mystery. One explained that not all Iranian went to the front to get killed to be martyrs; war was run by a well-calculated manipulative machinery. Another explained that teenagers in Iran are the same as teenagers the world over, even a bit more cheerful and playful. Another revealed that in spite of all the efforts by the clerics to undermine the status of women, their presence and their influence in the overall society is still undeniable. But none took the trouble to explain the system of the government so the people won’t rush to the bunkers out of fear that Iran’s president who has no power as such would eliminate them from the earth. It seemed there was a limit to excavating this great tomb, one inch at a time would have to do.

And now finally it seems it is the time for demystification. I’m not sure that we have arrived at this stage since it is a convenient time, or it is just the American way of learning something. Perhaps the revolution has reached its zenith and now is going to merge and blend with Iranian culture to disappear, and this allows the observers have a better perspective. Books are being published which are more exposing, articles are written which are more revealing, clerics inside the country are saying things which makes one wonder why they hadn’t said them twenty-five years ago. People talk about the government’s corruption, clerics are criticizing clerics, and in spite of all the arrests on charges of endangering national security and social order, people are still outspoken. And we hear more and more the forgotten word “secular” in a variety of contexts. For the first time, thanks to internet, news travels over the boarders more freely. It might be for this very reason that journalists and commentators follow suit and are becoming more open to talking about Iran, however cautiously. In any case, I welcome this third stage; though, had we done this from the start, we would have been saved much trouble.


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by IranWrites on

Sorry I've posted my responses late. I'm kind of new at this game

I agree with you, Mehdi. We Iranians are too proud to face the awful truth about what's been going on these past thirty years

"Century of War", sorry, but Engdhal is a kook. He was the European editor for the self-proclaimed genius Lyndon Larouche's Executive Intelligence Review, which deals in all sorts of
سااخته پرداخته and تضاد گوئی .
The above is no exception. The idea that the uber-Zionist Bernard Lewis was in on a conspiracy with the anti-Zionist George Ball is laughable. The fact is, Lewis is the bete noir for one group of crackpots (the Islamist and Arab paranoids) and Ball is the bete noir of another set (the Carter-haters), and so he tosses them together like a chef would toss lettuce and onions into a salad. Anyone who uses the Larouchi confection Hostage to Khomeini as a primary source has just lost my attention

Mr.Vanaki, I said from the very begining that the Islamicization of the people's revolution was not going to end well. While my leftist friends were beating their breasts with the rock of Khomeini, I was warning them. I'm not saying "told you so," but I think we Iranians should learn our lesson from the disaster. Don't you

Anonymous666, I am not a Muslim but a Zoroastrian. If you want to get to the roots of Islam, I wish you well. I should just say that before Umar there was Abu Bakr, and before him, well... Just know what you're getting yourself into, my friend

Kamangir, I'm sorry. When a ruling class is swept out of power by the largest mass mobilizations in Middle Eastern history, we call it a revolution. It was not a result of some conspiracy. Iranians did this to us, not the CIA or the KGB or Mossad. Let's deal with it

Truthseeker, you have sought and you have found! I agree with you


Thank you, David ET. Phone home

Darius Khan, a very interesting answer. I'm going to follow your posts. Thanks


Century of War

by Mehdi on

I am with you. That's the only thing that explains this so-called "revolution." Unfortunately I think a lot of people find it too embarrssing to look into it. They prefer to believe falsehood and keep their "pride" than to find the truth.


The IRanian revolution was a

by "Century of War" (not verified) on

The IRanian revolution was a manufactured rebellion against the Shah by the West. Please Read the book by William Engdhal:


Here are some excerpts:

In November 1978, President Carter named the Bilderberg group's George Ball, another member of the Trilateral Commission, to head a special White House Iran task force under the National Security Council's Brzezinski. Ball recommended that Washington drop support for the Shah of Iran and support the fundamentalistic Islamic opposition of Ayatollah Khomeini. Robert Bowie from the CIA was one of the lead 'case officers' in the new CIA-led coup against the man their covert actions had placed into power 25 years earlier. Their scheme was based on a detailed study of the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, as presented by British Islamic expert, Dr. Bernard Lewis, then on assignment at Princeton University in the United States.

Lewis's scheme, which was unveiled at the May 1979 Bilderberg meeting in Austria, endorsed the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement behind Khomeini, in order to promote balkanization of the entire Muslim Near East along tribal and religious lines. Lewis argued that the West should encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds, Armenians, Lebanese Maronites, Ethiopian Copts, Azerbaijani Turks, and so forth. The chaos would spread in what he termed an 'Arc of Crisis,' which would spill over into Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.

The coup against the Shah, like that against Mossadegh in 1953, was run by British and American intelligence, with the bombastic American, Brzezinski, taking public 'credit' for getting rid of the 'corrupt' Shah, while the British characteristically remained safely in the background.

During 1978, negotiations were under way between the Shah's government and British Petroleum for renewal of the 25-year old extraction agreement. By October 1978, the talks had collapsed over a British 'offer' which demanded exclusive rights to Iran's future oil output, while refusing to guarantee purchase of the oil. With their dependence on British-controlled export apparently at an end, Iran appeared on the verge of independence in its oil sales policy for the first time since 1953, with eager prospective buyers in Germany, France, Japan and elsewhere.

In its lead editorial that September, Iran's Kayhan International stated: In retrospect, the 25-year partnership with the [British Petroleum] consortium and the 50-year relationship with British Petroleum which preceded it, have not been satisfactory ones for Iran … Looking to the future, NIOC [National Iranian Oil Company] should plan to handle all operations by itself. London was blackmailing and putting enormous economic pressure on the Shah's regime by refusing to buy Iranian oil production, taking only 3 million or so barrels daily of an agreed minimum of 5 million barrels per day.

This imposed dramatic revenue pressures on Iran, which provided the context in which religious discontent against the Shah could be fanned by trained agitators deployed by British and U.S. intelligence. In addition, strikes among oil workers at this critical juncture crippled Iranian oil production. As Iran's domestic economic troubles grew, American 'security' advisers to the Shah's Savak secret police implemented a policy of ever more brutal repression, in a manner calculated to maximize popular antipathy to the Shah.

At the same time, the Carter administration cynically began protesting abuses of 'human rights' under the Shah. British Petroleum reportedly began to organize capital flight out of Iran, through its strong influence in Iran's financial and banking community. The British Broadcasting Corporation's Persian-language broadcasts, with dozens of Persian-speaking BBC 'correspondents' sent into even the smallest village, drummed up hysteria against the Shah.

The BBC gave Ayatollah Khomeini a full propaganda platform inside Iran during this time. The British government-owned broadcasting organization refused to give the Shah's government an equal chance to reply. Repeated personal appeals from the Shah to the BBC yielded no result. Anglo-American intelligence was committed to toppling the Shah. The Shah fled in January, and by February 1979, Khomeini had been flown into Tehran to proclaim the establishment of his repressive theocratic state to replace the Shah's government. Reflecting on his downfall months later, shortly before his death, the Shah noted from exile, I did not know it then perhaps I did not want to know but it is clear to me now that the Americans wanted me out. Clearly this is what the human rights advocates in the State Department wanted What was I to make of the Administration's sudden decision to call former Under Secretary of State George Ball to the White House as an adviser on Iran? Ball was among those Americans who wanted to abandon me and ultimately my country.[1][1]

With the fall of the Shah and the coming to power of the fanatical Khomeini adherents in Iran, chaos was unleashed. By May 1979, the new Khomeini regime had singled out the country's nuclear power development plans and announced cancellation of the entire program for French and German nuclear reactor construction. Iran's oil exports to the world were suddenly cut off, some 3 million barrels per day. Curiously, Saudi Arabian production in the critical days of January 1979 was also cut by some 2 million barrels per day. To add to the pressures on world oil supply, British Petroleum declared force majeure and cancelled major contracts for oil supply. Prices on the Rotterdam spot market, heavily influenced by BP and Royal Cutch Shell as the largest oil traders, soared in early 1979 as a result.

The second oil shock of the 1970s was fully under way. Indications are that the actual planners of the Iranian Khomeini coup in London and within the senior ranks of the U.S. liberal establishment decided to keep President Carter largely ignorant of the policy and its ultimate objectives. The ensuing energy crisis in the United States was a major factor in bringing about Carter's defeat a year later. There was never a real shortage in the world supply of petroleum. Existing Saudi and Kuwaiti production capacities could at any time have met the 5-6 million barrels per day temporary shortfall, as a U.S. congressional investigation by the General Accounting Office months later confirmed. Unusually low reserve stocks of oil held by the Seven Sisters oil multinationals contributed to creating a devastating world oil price shock, with prices for crude oil soaring from a level of some $14 per barrel in 1978 towards the astronomical heights of $40 per barrel for some grades of crude on the spot market. Long gasoline lines across America contributed to a general sense of panic, and Carter energy secretary and former CIA director, James R. Schlesinger, did not help calm matters when he told Congress and the media in February 1979 that the Iranian oil shortfall was 'prospectively more serious' than the 1973 Arab oil embargo.[2][2]

The Carter administration's Trilateral Commission foreign policy further ensured that any European effort from Germany and France to develop more cooperative trade, economic and diplomatic relations with their Soviet neighbor, under the umbrella of détente and various Soviet-west European energy agreements, was also thrown into disarray. Carter's security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, implemented their 'Arc of Crisis' policy, spreading the instability of the Iranian revolution throughout the perimeter around the Soviet Union. Throughout the Islamic perimeter from Pakistan to Iran, U.S. initiatives created instability or worse." --

William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, © 1992, 2004. Pluto Press Ltd. Pages 171-174. [1][1]

In 1978, the Iranian Ettelaat published an article accusing Khomeini of being a British agent. The clerics organized violent demonstrations in response, which led to the flight of the Shah months later. See U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies, Iran. The Coming of the Revolution. December 1987. The role of BBC Persian broadcasts in the ousting of the Shah is detailed in Hossein Shahidi. 'BBC Persian Service 60 years on.' The Iranian. September 24, 2001.

The BBC was so much identified with Khomeini that it won the name 'Ayatollah BBC.' [2][2] Comptroller General of the United States. 'Iranian Oil Cutoff: Reduced Petroleum Supplies and Inadequate U.S. Government Response.' Report to Congress by General Accounting Office. 1979."


IranWrites but does Iran Speak as well?

by Nader Vanaki (not verified) on

You provide a very good wide angle shot of the history of the republic. But please don't give yourself too much credit as you do in your last sentence: "...had we done this from the start, we would have saved much trouble." You do not speak on behalf of the nation and I don't think you had the magic crystall ball in your hands in 1979. What is the point of lamenting? AFSOOS VA EIKAASH and with that you reduce the writing into nagging session that we have said, thought, and heard before. It took 29 years to learn and those living in Iran learned at a much faster pace than those who packed up and left. Don't represent the 'see I told you so' gang because we are all invested in this. And if you want to read some one else's view very similar to yours read the following:



what islam and islamic leaders have done for and to iran?

by Anonymous666 (not verified) on

by Another Anonymous (not verified) on Tue Jan 01,

"Both shah and IRI deprived iranians of historical truth, for different reasons.

Shah did not allow any material offensive to islam to be taught or published, lest it would provoke mullas.

Mullas do not allow any material offensive to islam to be taught or published since they want to present people with a positive view of islam.

An in-depth study of what islam and islamic leaders have done for and to iran would help a lot in finding our place between religion and national identity. We should know exactly what islamic leaders from Omar to Khomeini did to iranians based on historical facts and truth. That is the only way that we can avoid idealizing or demonizing islam one way or the other. This will be quite ugly from day 1 during Omar, but needs to be done with total objectivity and based on historical data."



What revolution?

by Kamangir on

The bottom line is that there was never a 'revolution'. It's amazing how confidents most Iranians are in using this term. What took place was 'ashoob' as a result of a massive covert international conspiracy.  Are you telling me that a bunch of mullahs, jackasses hijacked your so called 'revolution'?

Get real, the Iranians of then and many of today have no clue of what came upon them. 


Thank you for a very good analysis

by truthseeker (not verified) on

Thank you for the article? You bring up very good points and touch on some critical issues.

However, the fact that the Shah of Iran, and his government, and all of the U.S. allies of the Pahlavi regime, including the President of the United States were not aware of what was taking place right under their nose, is a negative reflection on all of these parties. This is a very poor reflection on the Shah himself that he had no clue what was taking place in his country.

It is not as if this was a sudden Revolution; there were enough indications that the masses were un-happy and dissatisfied as early as the 1960’s.

Obviously the regime and its U.S. allies were not paying attention to the under currents taking place, else they could have taken appropriate measures for change much earlier before it was too late.

There is something totally wrong with this picture. I can only attribute it to the ineptitude of those in power both in Iran and in the U.S.

No wonder a Revolution took place! Shame on them all!!

Nazy Kaviani

Well Done

by Nazy Kaviani on

Thank you for a fresh look at the current state of affairs. I lived in the US when the Revolution happened in Iran. I watched the changes unfold on ABC, and subsequently watched the hostage situation covered in American media. There were "experts" who were interviewed regularly on ABC. Marvin Zonas and Hamed Algar were two of them. Whatever happened* to those "experts" who were deciphering and translating and decoding the behavior in Tehran on a nightly basis? Obviously, they have ran out of expertise since then as they are no longer providing their expert advice, at least not on US television. I remember as a young Iranian who had left those same streets just a few months earlier, watching events unfold was so overwhelming for me, and to have these two "scholars" talk about Iran and what Iranians want and about Iran's social structure, more than once I had to ask myself whether I was coming from the same place these guys were talking about.

I agree that the coverage and analysis has changed substantially over the past three decades. One of the reasons is the growing number of Iranians who have emigrated to other countries, finding their own voices in their new communities. Along with second generation Iranians, and the generation of young Iranians inside Iran, the number of voices and perspectives on Iranian politics has increased, bringing articulation to the discussions, not just from European or American experts, but from the people of Iran.

With the growing hype about a potential attack on Iran recently, it was that community of Iranians outside Iran who raised the most concern and disagreement with the idea, even though US media was constantly pushing the idea into the public opinion stream.

*I know where they are physically.

David ET

great observation

by David ET on

thank you

Darius Kadivar

Excellent Overview

by Darius Kadivar on

Thank you for this excellent overview on the shift you see in regard to the view that is emerging as to the history of the revolution of 1979 which was overshadowed by a certain mystic and taboo due to the responsability of many intellectuals who refused to see the truth: That is the emergence of a new form of intellectual terrorism. One of the die hard supporters of the Islamic Revolution was no other than a respected French philosopher Michel Foucault:


Also I recall a certain French Lawyer Christian Bourget who was trying to bring the Shah to an International court of justice and Freez the Shah's assets in the US. He became a crucial lawyer for Iran's interests in France and certainly made a great deal of money doing so. He was so adamant in his accusations against the Shah and in favor of the revolution but closed his eyes on the crimes that were being commited at the same time by the Mullahs. I remember how arrogant and hateful he was towards anyone who contradicted him. He was close to Ibrahim Yazdi and Ghobtzadeh but I never heard of him after Ghobtzadeh was executed. His name appeared from time to time in the French or British press as an expert on Iran.

Le Monde newspaper was also greatly veangeful on the Shah thanks to other "intellectual journalists" and other "experts" on Iran whom no one had heard of before the revolution. they basically made a career in the French Press and given the popularity of the leftwing intelligensia they got all the support they wanted including from the declining Giscard D'Estaing Presidency and later with Francois Mitterand's socialist government. Shapour Bakhtiar was executed cold bloodedly under his presidency and his assassins are still on the run.

I don't think that the Revolution in Iran was entirely provoked by foreign help but it was certainly strengthened thanks to a certain intelligensia. I do not oppose intellectual thought but like everything it requires responsability and unfortunately most of those who inside or outside Iran supported the revolution and khomeiny simply were bluffed by their own enthusiasm rather than a logical and critical thought.

We are today still paying the price for their shortsightedness not to say selfish and hypoctical attitude. The Islamic fundementalist ideology is spreading like a cancer and destroying not only Iran's interests but that of the muslim world in general. The death of secular democrats like most recently Benazir Bhutto should be a wake up call to all those who are still doubting in the threat that Islamic fundamentalism represents to genuine Democrats in the region.