Saturday 25 October 2014

Arab Spring 31 Preview

Welcome to The Arab Spring – A History. Episode 31 – Khomeini Supreme. I want to begin today with a moment of reflection. 1979 is a year which will live in infamy. It will go down in history as a momentous moment when everything changed, just as when Caesar was killed in 44BC or the French Revolution of 1789. This is why I have felt the need to give such a slow, for this podcast anyway, account of the revolution last time out. For a time in the late 20th century, there existed an idea that history was ending. No, I’m not talking about the apocalypse, although there was plenty of talk of that as well. What I mean is that history is very complicated with millions of factors pushing nations in different directions. It’s why predicting the future is so horrendously difficult. Things seemingly appear out of nowhere, but once they’ve happened you can look back and see their origins and trace them, and explain the world around you. This is exactly what we’re doing. The Arab Spring seemingly just happened, but if you examine what was going on, you can see what was happening and where things were going. Somehow, people had managed to forget this. There was so much focus on the Cold War, East vs. West, communism versus capitalism, that alternatives were almost forgotten. When the West began to get the upper hand in the Cold War, there was a sense that the whole world was on the road to western style democracy. It was a system which worked universally. It may take more time in other places, but it was assumed that eventually every nation would adopt this model and follow in the West’s footsteps. The whole world would use the same system, and history would be something we could all forget about. This is a world view which has taken arguably until into the 21st century view to be recognised as absurd, but it was something shown by 1979. In the secular democratic world being envisioned, there was no room for the radical Islamic Theocracy which had appeared in Iran. It showed the world that things could not be so easily predicted, that, at least for the moment, there was no universal theory of government, and, something which is very important to your humble podcaster, it proved that history was not over just yet. I hope you found that interesting, and I haven’t just put you off listening to the show anymore. So, let’s get back into things.

Khomeini arrived in Iran to a tremendous reception, and soon enough the army surrendered. The Prime Minister fled the country and many of the Shah’s associates were executed. Khomeini was determined that this moment would be a game changer in the Middle East. If his revolution was to have as much of an impact as the French revolution had, then it would be necessary for it to not be confined to one country, but to spread across the region. Khomeini denounced every Muslim country, calling all the governments unIslamic and called for them to be overthrown. He said that a true Muslim state should not side with either the East or West, but he held a special hatred for America. Greatly worried by this, the staff at the American embassy was reduced from 2000 to under a hundred. Carter did not want to risk the lives of those in still in the embassy, and so refused the Shah entry into the US.