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Khomeini, the Revolution… the Iranian Citizen and the Mirror

Khomeini, the Revolution… the Iranian Citizen and the Mirror

Monday, 11 February, 2019 - 09:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

At the age of 40, a man should stand in front of the mirror. It is impossible to disregard age, whether for individuals or revolutions. Reaching the edge of 40 means moving away from adolescence and the hustle of youth time, and getting the chance to review one’s path and redirect it. At age of 40, one is encouraged to abandon illusions and to subject dreams to the test of real figures. It is an opportunity to reconcile with facts and to move from confrontation to coexistence and building bridges. It is an opportunity to reunite with regional and international realities and with the charters governing the natural behavior of a state.

Today, Iran celebrates the 40th anniversary of the victory of the revolution, without sending to countries, near or far, any message stating that it has become mature enough to derive lessons from this experience. Its messages go in the opposite direction and stress its commitment to fuel the fire of the revolution.

No one disputes Iran’s right to live under any system chosen by its people. The problem is not with its options inside its borders. The problem is that Iran is demanding the people of the region and the world to coexist with a large-scale offensive it is launching in the region to make its role mandatory in the lives of a number of countries.

No one is arguing against Iran’s right to adhere to what it embraced 40 years ago. But is Iran entitled to meddle with the region’s balances and transform life in some of its countries into constant chaos?

Let us leave official celebrations aside. The Arabs would like to know what it feels like for the Iranians to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolution, because we are doomed to live together in this historical and geographical trap called the Middle East.

Does the ordinary Iranian citizen believe that the best way to coexist is for an Iranian general to announce that his country has the first and last say in four Arab capitals? Does Iran really need the military, intelligence and ideological presence behind its borders? What is the cost of the conflicts that Iran has engaged in? Did it learn the lesson of the Soviet Union, which collapsed after it gave greater importance to foreign successes rather than internal victories?

What does the ordinary Iranian feel if he, along with the revolution, stands in front of the mirror today? Does he feel national pride because Iranian missiles are interconnected in more than one location in the region? Does he feel that the slogan "Death to America" relieves the government of its failure to combat unemployment, poverty and the painful consequences of the current US sanctions on the country’s economy? Does he consider the nuclear program a necessary cushion and an "insurance policy" for the revolution and its regime, or an expensive and dangerous dream that left the country in isolation?

What do those, who were born after the revolution and account for 70 percent of the population, feel today? Do they ask why some 30 million Iranians live below the poverty line? Why, after four decades, the revolution was not able to improve people's lives and fulfill its promises? Is the production of new generations of missiles more important than curbing unemployment and promoting investment in education and welfare? Does anyone ask why the size of the Iranian economy on the eve of the revolution was twice the size of South Korea’s, which four decades later, became seven times greater than Iran’s?

Does anyone ask why China has managed in the same four decades to help 700 million people out of poverty and occupy the position of the world’s second economy, while Iran spent the same time interfering in regional countries and alarming states near and far?

Does the Iranian citizen, who was born after the revolution, believe that the strong Iranian presence in the decision-making of Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa and the removal of groups from its national fabric and attaching them to the Iranian Revolutionary dictionary, will contribute to reserving a permanent seat for his country in the leadership of the region, or will make it the greatest partner of the "Great Satan"?

Can Iran ever hold on to the same dictionary that Khomeini drafted, despite the great earthquake that struck the world of the two camps under which it was born? Does Iran’s interest lie in attracting new capitals to its orbit or catching up with the world's scientific and technological revolutions that were achieved between the victory of the revolution and its celebration of its 40th anniversary? Is expansion through proxy and mobile armies better than belonging to the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Is the preoccupation with rocket development more important than engaging in the world of robotics, investment and prosperity?

Much can be written about four decades of the Iranian revolution. It received gifts it did not expect.

The first was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which shifted the attention towards Baghdad, not Tehran. The second was the September 11 attacks that brought the world’s attention to what was called the “Sunni extremism,” which was partly in response to the Iranian revolution igniting Shiite-Sunni conflicts. The third gift was the US move to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, who, despite being besieged, was an obstacle to the flow of Iranian influence in the capitals of the Crescent. The fourth was Barack Obama’s stance towards Syria and Iran’s success in deploying its militias there.

In contrast, the revolution behaved with exaggerated realism when it came to its safety, and the story of Iran-Contra was remarkable in this regard. Moreover, Iran also bombed Iraqi cities with missiles obtained from Libya, despite the latter’s role in the disappearance of Imam Moussa al-Sadr.

What if an Iranian youth born after the revolution stood in front of the Mao Zedong mausoleum in Beijing? Does he feel that the revolution did not find a man like Deng Xiaoping, who saved the regime from a dark fate if Mao continued to rule the country from his tomb? Would he not have the same feeling if he stood in front of Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow? Does he ask himself the difficult question about how long will Khomeini continue to rule Iran from his tomb? And when will the Iranian revolution find a leader such as Deng, who will force the country to become a normal state?

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