For the people who inhabit this land, what is the point of searching, even at the cost of their own lives, for this thing whose possibility we have forgotten since the Renaissance and the great crisis of Christianity, a political spirituality.
So observed Michel Foucault, the philosopher, in “What Are the Iranians Dreaming About” in October 1978. He visited Iran to watch a modern revolution already underway and published his views in a series of articles which were not well received. What they do capture as in the quote above are the spirit and idealism of revolutionary Iranians in their most modern dimension.
The global repercussions of revolutionary change of such near-mythical dimensions were recognized early by Foucault and the Islamic world. The struggle between the King and the Saint, the State and the People, Injustice and the Imam said it all. The inspiring ideas associated with Khomeini or Shariati had been echoed earlier in writings of people, such as Maududi and Iqbal, two of the best known religious thinkers of the early part of the twentieth century writing in the face of what they saw as Muslim decline.
Post-revolutionary Iran brought disappointment to Iranians who sympathised with the modern religious Islamic ideals. Afary and Anderson in “The Seductions of Islamism: Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution” place this in an intellectual context:
A number of Middle Eastern intellectuals have been grappling with their own versions of the Enlightenment project over the past century. The questions in the Middle East are quite concrete. Should such societies, which are often dominated by secular or religious despotic orders, ignore the juridico-legal legacies of the West?
Afary and Anderson describe how realities of power blunted the ideals of the revolution, in effect, re-establishing negative tendencies of authoritarian power structures.
Twenty-eight years after the revolution in Iran, the US hostage crisis resolved at the expense of the Carter presidency, Iran-Contra affair resolved at the expense of Reagan’s memory, and the Iran’s Conservative-versus-Reformist wrangle resolved in favor of the popular Ahmedinijad, the country announces its own arrival into the club of nuclear states with a lump of uranium enriched enough to run power stations.
In contrast with India, Pakistan, and Israel, Iran is a signatory to the Non-proliferation Treaty, NPT, and has stuck to its principles by reserving nuclear energy research for civilian use. Khamenei has decreed in a fatwa [IRNA 2005] that:
the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons.
This is an important distinction, one that needs to be respected despite apprehensions of ambition and a covert military programme, and intimidation by Western states. The air needs to be cleared as do the suspicions through international mechanisms for monitoring of nuclear installations. Iran has also complied with IAEA regulations regarding inspections of its facilities, until referred to the UN Security Council on politicized suspicion based on intelligence [sic]. Iran has played by the international rules and treaties it has adhered to.
Al-Baradei, head of IAEA the nuclear watchdog agency and Nobel Peace Prize winner declared in his current trip to Tehran that “the time is right for a political solution.”
The timing of Seymour Hersh’s article “The Iran Plans” in the New Yorker, alleging the Pentagon’s belligerence regarding attacks on Iran is not amiss. Meanwhile a number of US generals have expressed reservations about the strategic, operational and tactical competence of the Secretary of Defence, Rumsfeld, in dealing with military matters, in light of the experience and policies regarding Iraq. The frustration is captured in General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, discussing military planning for Iraq at a Pentagon briefing saying “We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us.”
Regarding US political and military policy on Iran, Seymour Hersh quotes a diplomat “There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution. They are still banking on isolation and regime change. This is wishful thinking… The window of opportunity is now”
If anything Iran, despite Ahmedinejad’s comments regarding Israel, does not seem to be at a loss for words, strategy or spirit. India has secured an agreement with the US for now. But Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, now declared nuclear states want a deal too.
[images: US Dept of Defense, IRNA, sarir209.com]