by Majid Rafizadeh
I was born after the Islamic Revolution of Iran, at the beginning of the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war and lived most of my life in the post-revolutionary era under the Ayatollah and Shiite Islamic Sharia law. I remember many people that underestimated the power of the Islamist movement, of Ayatollah and Imam Ruhollah Khomeini and his followers. Yet, here we are at the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a much stronger, centralized regime that has been successful at promoting its ideology across the region, creating proxies such as Hezbollah, funding other Islamist movements, and thwarting America’s (and its allies’) security interests, as well as the U.S.’s foreign policy, geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic objectives in the region.
The Ayatollah, Mullahs, and Iranian leaders are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Islamic Republic of Iran by Ayatollah and Imam Ruhollah Khomeini and his extremist followers.
It is also worth noting that due to the Carter administration’s foreign policies, the United States stood by and watched one of our (and Israel’s) staunchest allies in the Middle East be controlled by Shiite Islamic Ayatollahs and clerics; Iran was turned into one of the U.S.’s most robust and determined geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic enemies.
This considerably shifted the balance of power in the Middle East, as the Islamic Republic built a firmer alliance with Russia and China, to counter American and Israeli foreign policy objectives in the region.
Ceremonies began in Iran on Saturday, marking the 35th anniversary of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which deposed pro-US Muhammad Reza Shah and brought in the Islamic Republic.
The beginning of the 10 days of celebration, called the 10-Day Dawn (Fajr) festivities across Iran, marks the day when the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, arrived back home from exile on February 1, 1979, after having spent more than 14 years away, mostly in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, with some time in Turkey and France.
These 10 days will culminate in one of largest nationwide rallies on February 11th, to celebrate the anniversary of the triumph of the Islamic Revolution.
After overthrowing the secular and pro-Western state, the Ayatollahs instituted a new social order based primarily on Islamist thoughts, Shari’a law, and Shiite ideals like the introduction of Jurisprudent Leadership (Vilayat-e Faqih) and giving divine power to the Supreme Leader (Vali)—whose legitimacy lies in his piety and his supposedly unmatched knowledge of Islam.
Article 57 was added to the constitution to emphasize this shift: “The powers of government in the Islamic Republic are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the absolute religious leader and the Leadership of the Ummah, in accordance with the forthcoming articles of this Constitution…”
This gave the Supreme leader the absolute power to veto, enact, or suspend any law that was deemed to be un-Islamic based on his interpretations. All articles of the constitutions became subject to approval of Islamic laws. This created an artificial façade of democracy. For example, while the constitution gives rights to writers, journalists, and bloggers to write freely, everything should still comply with Islamic and Shiite laws.
In other words, every article in the constitution became subject to Article 4: “All civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. This principle applies absolutely and generally to all articles of the Constitution as well as to all other laws and regulations, and the wise persons of the Guardian Council are judges in this matter.” This law gave the ruling Ayatollah and Iranian leaders the sovereign power and institutional mechanisms to implement and ensure compliance with Islam, as defined by the ruling clerics.
Is the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran getting weaker?
The answer is mixed. Regarding regional and international realms, the Islamic Republic has definitely become a much more centralized state compared to its 1979 condition. The nation is also on the verge of becoming a nuclear power and nuclear-armed state. The Islamic Republic has also grown to be more self-sufficient in some industries, particularly in military capabilities, including multiple ballistic and cruise missile systems— such as Shahab-3, the Shahab-3D— investment in nuclear technologies, missile-equipped drones with a range of 2,000 kilometers like the Fotros drone (copying the US drone captured by Iranian forces), automobiles such as Sepehr, and air-to-air missiles such as Fatter (a copy of U.S. AIM-9 Sidewinder). This partial self-sufficiency has mostly concentrated on military programs since the 1980s, as also seen in the frequent announcements by Iranian leaders on various technological breakthroughs including the building of jet fighters, submarines, tanks, and torpedoes.
When it comes to domestic policies, the Iranian government has definitely become more masterful in cracking down, suppressing, and implementing the discriminatory laws against religious minorities, segregating the society based on gender, executing dissidents, imposing dress code, stifling the potential of both society and economic opportunity. But this has also created a large section of the society (primarily the youth population under 30 years of age who comprise approximately more than 50% of the Iranian population) to become disaffected and disenchanted with the Islamic regime. Finally, if there is going to be any real threat to the Ayatollahs and Iranian leaders, it will most likely be from this young section of the population, rather than any action from external forces.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University.
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