When we think about revolution, we think about a move towards a more liberal point of view. The 1979 Iranian revolution was the opposite. Its leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, was a stranger to democracy and human rights and the rendition was regressive. As a consequence of this revolution, the underprivileged segments of society, often illiterate or less educated, fanatical, and religious, assumed power. With access to oil revenues, they established the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its international branches in the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon. IRGC was established to overcome domestic opposition and its international branches to spread terrorism and under the pretext of “spreading the revolution”.
Gaining power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
With the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, the newly established IRGC found an excuse to continue its existence and expanded even more. In addition to participating in internal repressions and creating an atmosphere of oppression, the IRGC was also busy recruiting members of the Iranian youth community to fight in the war fronts against Saddam Hussein.
Also, during this period, the IRGC recruited and trained operational, military, administrative, logistics and intelligence service staff. Although it was not yet involved in economic and commercial affairs in a large way, the footprints of the IRGC and its operatives could be seen in the executive affairs and in the decision-making processes of the Iranian Government and parliament.
The newly born IRGC comprised mostly young people with very little military and political education or experience. It was this group that later formed the senior commanders of the IRGC , which had as commander, the notably Qassem Soleimani.
The era of the Iran-Iraq war was full of terrible mistakes by these inexperienced soldiers. Many soldiers’ lives were lost in the battlegrounds.
It is important to remember that since its inception, the IRGC has been an ideological organisation based on the desires and aspirations of the Shia, a group of Muslims. It has no cultural identity and similarity with Iranian nationalism. Even in its constitution, the focus of the activities of the IRGC is to keep the Shia government in power.
Post War – the IRGC evolves
After the Iran-Iraq war, the IRGC faced a shift in its role. While its forces no longer had a specific military purpose, they were ideologically loyal to the regime which made their preservation useful to the Shia regime.
IRGC forces were used in the following ways:
. As military forces
. In the government, parliament and as politicians
. In academical, cultural and media roles
. IRGC members as an economic activists
Some were engaged in intelligence and were involved in the suppression of alternative ideas.
Over time, the IRGC transformed into a dominant force in Iranian society.
Influencing Iranian society
Despite the fact that the government of the Ayatollahs, with the help of weapons, torture, censorship, suffocation and repression, has been able to hold the Iranian society captive for nearly 45 years and rule the country, this rule has never been easy for them. During the past five decades, the people of Iran have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest and express and dissatisfaction with this extralegal government.
In recent years, Iran has experienced a significant growth in the level of university education and the intellectual development of society. Women have entered into social, scientific and artistic activities in an incredible way and have seriously challenged the regime’s religious restrictions against them.
The people of Iran have shown that they have overcome their religious and petrified government by making serious demands for democracy and human rights and have become an active base for organising struggles and demands in the Middle East.
Another serious shift is the transformation in the attitude of Iranian people towards religious matters. According to the latest statistics of reliable international organisations such as the Iranian Opinion Survey Institute (Gamaan), half of Iranians believe that they have changed from religiosity to irreligiousness and only about 30% of Iranian society considers themselves Shia Muslims.
This statistic is very significant for a country in the heart of the Middle East, which has been the centre of religious wars and where the promotion of Islamic radicalism is common. While, the people of Iran aren’t the perpetrators of Islamic radicalism, Iranian clerics have played a key role in the history of Iran.
A country once led by fanatical and anti-Western religious leaders, has now become embraced a secular and democracy-loving country. The people of Iran have western ideas alongside historic national values and are looking for a peaceful and respectful link with other people of the world. For many years, they have fought against radical Islam and the terror-supporting regime and are now seeking integration into the world community.
Despite its dominance on the geographic map, the regime failed to capture the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, who are becoming impatient for change.
What should be the approach of western democracies towards Iran?
Western democracies face a crucial challenge in determining their approach towards Iran. The Islamic regime has engaged in a range of destructive and nefarious activities, including arms, human, and drug trafficking, money laundering, and supporting terrorism worldwide. These actions have not only targeted the interests of Western citizens but have also caused immense instability in the Middle East.
The ideological foundation of the Iranian government is in stark contrast to the values upheld by the free world. Military interventions, such as the involvement in the Arab revolution and alliance with Putin in the Ukraine war, underscore its conflict with global order and peace. The toll of these Iranian government activities is evident in the loss of around 500,000 innocent lives in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis in European countries. The West cannot afford to turn a blind eye to these issues. Failure to act will contribute to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and instability worldwide, posing a direct threat to the national security of many Western nations.
While the people of Western countries are averse to initiating a military conflict, attention must be directed towards a strategic alliance with the Iranian people against the common enemy—the oppressive Iranian regime. Iranians have repeatedly demonstrated their desire for freedom and their alignment with the values of the free world. They have paid a heavy price, losing young lives in their struggle against the oppressive government.
In the larger geopolitical context, as Western democracies navigate their competition with Russia and China, Iran could be a pivotal card to play in the Middle East region. Recognising the strategic importance of fostering democracy in Iran, the West can not only contribute to regional stability but also shape a more secure and cooperative global landscape.
In fact, in the competition between the United States and its allies with Russia and China, Iran can be the winning card of the democracies in the Middle East.
The imperative for the West is to actively support the emergence of a democratic government in Iran through collaboration with the Iranian people. A free and democratic Iran not only aligns with the values cherished by Western democracies but also holds the potential to become a reliable ally in the future.