Theocratic Iran vs. Marxist Soviet Union


IN 1994, I was visiting Los Angeles and met an Iranian taxi driver. He had moved to the US after years of living under the Khomeini rule. Summing up the difference between the life during the Shah era and a decade after the revolution, he said: The royalists would eat more than the rest of us, but would leave the remains on the table. The mullahs would eat even more, but would make sure they take every bit with them. Nothing is left behind.

Corruption has always been there, it only got worse under the theocratic regime. The same can be said about the danger Iran has posed to its neighbors. While the Shah’s government had tried to act as the Sherif of the Gulf region, the mullahs exported revolution, and drove to extend their empire way beyond its existing borders. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was much wiser, as he balanced his foreign relations. The “king of kings” managed to be on good terms with Arabs, Turks and Israelis. The same balance was kept with the superpowers of the day. Even though he was a strong ally of the Western camp, Iran’s relations with the Eastern camp was peaceful and quiet. The mullahs, on the other hand, lost all but few friends. They were a curse to every nation they allied with or invested in — from Iraq and Syria, to Yemen and Lebanon. Except for Russia, North Korea and Cuba, they had no reliable friend.

Democracy for Iranians has always been a runaway dream. They chased it three times in the twentieth century and lost it. First came the revolution of 1906, which was rewarded with democratic constitution and parliamentarian rule. It ended in the 1925, as Shah (King) Reza Pahlavi became king and turned the parliament into a rubberstamp. His son and successor Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi modernized the country, but kept his powers. Prime Minister Muhammad Mosaddegh, a populist leader, led a second revolution in 1951 that gave power back to the parliament and limited the Shah authority. An Anglo-American engineered coup ended that period, in 1953. The Shah became more authoritarian than ever.

The Khomeini revolution, on the other hand, has engineered a constitution, putting all powers in the hand of one unelected dictator. The supreme leader signs in Allah’s name and decides who will run for election and who will be excluded in all parts and layers of the regime. He rules the military and economy, and is the ultimate decision maker in foreign relations and domestic matters.

In the past and now, Iran has overspent on its military at the expense of its people’s needs. Only it is worse now than before. Under the Shah’s rule, a good part of the revenue was invested in modernizing the nation, and spent on pubic works and services. Today, Iran still survives on the same infrastructure the Shah had built with little improvement. Half the population are poor, a third are unemployed, and most receive little or no public services or aid. Most revenue is spent on the army, Revolutionary Guards, security services, as well as, foreign militias and regimes.

This reminds me of the Soviet Union. The communist revolution against the Russian empire was in the name of the poor. People revolted against injustice, poverty and corruption. Communism was supposed to provide the ultimate equality for all.

However, soon after taking over, the Reds became more interested in helping others than their own people. Their empire-building drive under had wasted their resources on other nations from Vietnam to Cuba. Involvements in countries like Korea and Afghanistan as well as joining the race with the United States in a very costly Star Wars, brought their economy down to its knees.

The Khomeini regime cannot live in peace. Just like the Communist revolution, they started against their own partners, and eliminated them all. Thirty thousands prisoners of conscious were massacred in 1988, and over a 1000 dissidents have been executed annually, since. Then they entered into conflicts with the US, and an 8-years war with Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq was the mullahs’ chance for revenge and to reestablish their ancient Safavid empire. From Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, then down to Yemen, they sent their soldiers and mercenaries, supported their Arab militias and agents, and invested in criminal regimes and dictators, like former Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Malki of Iraq, and President Bashar Assad of Syria.

The civilized people of Iran are ready now for a fourth revolution. Once more, they seek liberty, democracy and modernity. They fight theocracy, corruption and injustice. This time, more than any time before, they need the world to protect their peaceful protestation from the claws of a fascist regime. We owe them this much!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi