Friday, October 3, 2008

A review of Islamic revolution- Part 7

One of the saddest realities about Iranian political establishment and leadership, since the time that presence of westerners was increasing in Iran during Ghajar/Kadjar dynasty, has been the tendency for corruption among the people of highest ranks while many Iranians at the lower social classes were more loyal and committed to their country. Since more than two hundred years ago, Iranian territory became an attractive and easy target for super powers which had come with little or nothing but expected a lot and, there have always been those who were willing to sell the nation out by collaborating with them for personal gains. Another issue which has been source of many problems for our nation has been failure due to ignorance and immaturity of educated Iranians and Iranian intellectual community which should have had shouldered some of the responsibilities in leading the nation towards better judgment of its national and political interests. Despite a lot of work which, had been done in a relatively short period of time during Pahlavi era to train a new generation of statesmen by sending groups of students to be educated and become familiar with modern societies, many of same educated people became tools to destroy all the hopes of our nation for better future.

From those, there were some who held high positions within the system and also some who were outside the system but did their best to destroy it with help of external foes. It is obvious that the destructive effects of first group was a lot greater than second while the second group would never be able to accomplish much without existence of the first group. So many years have passed from those chaotic days and many things have come to light. Today almost everyone knows about the extent of effect of obscure figures like General Fardoust as an internal element who worked against the system while holding a very sensitive position in it. It is important to know that he was not the only person in highest positions in previous regime who covertly worked against the system in collaboration with the foreign governments who had interest in destroying that system while pretending to be friends and trying to be helpful.

Ofira Seliktar, an Israeli scholar and political scientist in her book about Iranian revolution, “The Failing of Crystal Ball Test” quotes a statement from William Sullivan, the last ambassador of United States to Iran saying: “there were ‘those’ in State Department ‘who were so strongly opposed to the Shah because of human right abuses of his regime that they wished to see him collapse no matter what the consequences for United States and its allies.’”

Knowing a little about history of relations between United States and other nations and remembering the stories of American meddling and invasions in different parts of the world, from Vietnam to Cuba, from Korea to Chili, from Grenada to Panama and many other places, this passive statement by Mr. Sullivan about Iran with such huge strategic values as a country to the north of Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf where more than two third of non-communist world energy and more than 90% of NATO’s energy needs pass through, can only be interpreted as a joke. This argument about importance of Iran in the politics of the west becomes more clear when we look at the geographic location of the country to the south of the Soviet Union where United States had setup major surveillance stations for constant monitoring of Soviet activities. All of this can tell us that United States and its allies were absolutely certain that Shah’s departure from Iran, not only would not weaken their position in Iran but also will provide them with a more devoted and less annoying allied regime which its leaders would be happy to have their hands on enormous wealth which they did not even dream of earlier.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Sullivan in his cable communication to Washington regarding coming of Khomeini to power suggests: “.. if the Shah fell and Khomeini took over, all was not lost.” . Carole Jerome, a journalist who accompanied Khomeini in the plane to Iran and the author of The Man in The Mirror continues: “His assessment was that the new government would be staunchly anti-Soviet and that Khomeini would remain a Gandhi-like figure. The main drawback was that Iran would become anti-Israeli. 'Thinking unthinkable' he called it."

Was it really “thinking unthinkable”? Was it possible that American policy makers did not know about teachings of Khomeini even though they had kept interest in him since 1963? Mr. Sulivan in his book, “Mission to Iran” states that he spent a few weeks on studying a variety of issues about Iran before leaving for Tehran. According to Mr. Sullivan, he conducted a comprehensive study on possibility of a “change” in Iran’s behavior towards Americans. He checked and contacted all American companies, which were in some sort of business with Iranian government. Mr. Sullivan asked all of them to be prepared to reduce the number of their employees and even leave Iran all together. This matter was very strange to some of the companies, which were involved in projects like manufacturing of military equipments and their maintenance in Iran but the advisory was very clear and they had no choice but to abide. As part of his studies, Mr. Sullivan had made assessment of loss of investments by American companies and designed solutions to reduce those damages. Mr. Sullivan also contacted some of the opposition elements in United States without mentioning any name. All of these and much more are documented in black and white and can only give us this impression that, despite some of later statements by Mr. Sullivan, U.S. government was not venturing in unfamiliar territories by supporting Khomeini.

There is one more point that I would like to mention here before moving on to other stories from inside the revolution. Carole Jerome who had spoken to William Sullivan quotes him in her book (The Man in The Mirror) that in a meeting with Shah: “….the Shah angrily launched into a ten-minute harangue. He listed each of the marches, demonstrations and strikes that had taken place, concluding, '...This cannot be the amateur work of spontaneous opposition. All the evidence indicate sophisticated planning.' The Shah turned to face Sullivan. 'And I have decided that it must all be result of foreign intrigue. What bothers me is that this intrigue is far beyond capabilities of KGB. It must therefore involve the British and American CIA'”. After that, Shah expressed his confusion over sudden turning of CIA against him while Sullivan provided some incomplete information about demonstrations and how they were funded and blamed it all on bazaaris. Mr. Sullivan then concluded that Shah was paranoid but overwhelming evidences are available today, which can confirm the Shah's suspicions at that time.

Carole Jerome who worked for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was appointed to her position in Paris during mid 1970’s when she was 26 years old. She met Sadegh Ghotbzadeh a few years later for the first time and her love story with Ghotbzadeh coincided with the time when Islamic revolution was close to its final stages. Around the same time that Carole moved to Paris, a young Iranian butcher lived in a village around Najaf-abad of Isfahan called Ghahderijan. His name was Jafar Shafizadeh and he ran his father’s butcher shop for living. According to his memories, which have been organized and published by late Siavash Bashiri (1), his life turned upside down one day, when he was asked by Mehdi Hashemi, a loyal, respectful and generous customer for a favor in exchange for a considerable pay in summer of the year 1975. That favor was, to help Mehdi Hashemi with reception for a party of some friends from ranking clerics in an obscure location while keeping this matter from everyone including his own family.

The offer was too tempting for Mr. Shafizadeh to pass as he was a young uneducated villager whose dream was just to have a nice butcher shop with enough revenue to support him and his parents. The money that Jafar received from Mehdi Hashemi for two weeks work was beyond his imaginations. He did not even make that money in the whole year. During the two weeks, he saw all the guests, which included eleven mullahs and four non-mullah people. He did not know anyone of them at that time but later he found out who they were as they all took important positions in the Islamic revolution which had entered a new stage in that summer day of the year 1975. The most important figure in that crowd was none other than ayatollah Beheshti. Others included: Mohammad Montazeri, Javad Bahonar, Sadegh Khalkhali, Fazlollah Mahallati, Ayatollah Taheri, ayatollah Khademi, ayatollah Saneii, Sadooghi Yazdi, Dastgheyb Shirazi, Meshkini and four non-mullah: Dr. Salavati, Dr. Minachi, Gholamabbas Tavassoli, and Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ali Akbar Parvaresh, a close associate of Mehdi Hashemi, was also present. This meeting took place a year after late Shah was diagnosed with mild Lymphoma and a year before massacre of ayatollah Shamsabadi and his family in the same village.

From that point on Jafar Shafizadeh, a simple young and talented villager with very limited education, entered a circle, which took him through events that he could never imagine before. In this new phase in his life, Jafar met many people who would hold highest positions in revolutionary government later, and visited many places that he never thought of previously. After the meeting ended, Mehdi Hashemi paid Jafar handsomely, and told him to get ready to go and get his passport next morning, without waiting for his agreement. Next day, Hashemi told him that he will be sent to an important mission and all his financial concerns will be taken care of and there should not be any problem. Jafar who, according to himself, would even kill anyone if Mehdi Hashemi asked him, became special servant for Mr. Hashemi after that and drove him around town while Mr. Hashemi, a devoted Muslim who even performed sermon in some religious sessions, took care of his own business and continued to pay Jafar generously.

Sometime after Jafar’s passport was ready, him and Gholamabbas Tavassoli departed for Paris and after a few days in Paris, Jafar was given a closed envelope and directed to airport to go to Syria where he was received by some Syrian military personnel and taken to a camp. Along with a few dozens of other people from different Islamic nations, Jafar received special training for guerrilla combat activities. Many of the people in that group were Iranians and all of them had higher education than Jafar. Some of them were university students or have completed their university. It was one of those days in training camp when Jafar was given the news by one of Syrian officers about arrest of Mehdi Hashemi and some of Shafizadeh family members for killings of ayatollah Shamsabadi and his family.

to be continued..