28 April 2010

Book review: The Persian Night

The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution, Amir Taheri, 2009.

Taheri is an expat Iranian living in London and Paris. He's a journalist, and he edited a major newspaper in Iran until he left. He's also significantly more conservative in mindset than I am.

He begins with several chapters of the history of Iran and of Islam, as well as political philosophy in the Muslim world. Once, Iran was a welcoming nation composed of many different groups of people who lived in (relative) harmony. The regime of the Islamic Republic wants Iranians to forget that, to wipe out their thousand-year history.

There were several things I found incredibly interesting in this text, which I'd never learned before. The regime (the Khomeinists) oppose the existence of the state and advocate permanent revolution, along with the elimination of the Great Satan and the Jews, of course. The state exists on a precarious wire, trying to go about the business of running a government while the regime goes about trying to stop them.

The system is unstable, and it keeps teetering toward chaos, until someone with greater force steps in.

The 1979 revolution was made possible through the combined support of the Khomeinists, the Marxists, and people who just hated the Shah. They worked together, then the Khomeinists set about their true goal, which is pretty much what we see today. Because of this, the opposition is fractionated, splintered, and instigating regime change would require a lot of effort in filling the power vacuum.

Taheri actually advocates for regime change. He says the time is right, because the people are more disillusioned than ever with the regime which has lost its legitimacy. He does not, from what I can gather, advocate regime change a la Iraq, but more the sort where people with big guns aid the locals.

Above all, the United States should be resolutely on the side of the Iranian people.... More important and ultimately perhaps more effective is for th United States to use its enormous bully pulpit to publicize the Iranian people's struggle for freedom.

Taheri has written several other books on modern Iranian history, though his work is not without controversy.

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