Why Do Washington and London Want to Preserve Theocracy in Iran?

Iran Hijab Mahsa Amini

Theocracy in Iran is based on a legend that a hidden Imam will resurface on the earth and bring justice to the world. According to Article 5 of the Islamic Republic constitution, until the imam has not returned, a pious cleric (supreme leader) who possesses administrative ability will rule in his place. As a result, all important organs of the government in Iran are under the direct or indirect control of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. The Iranian historian Ahmad Kasravi, in his book “Shi’ism” (Shi’agari), showed that the whole story of the hidden Imam is a myth.[1] In another book, “Superstitions” (Pandaria), he critiqued the superstitious beliefs in the Islamic culture. Kasravi was a critic of Shi’a beliefs that were propagated by the mullahs. These books are currently banned in Iran but are available on the Internet. Kasravi was the first anti-cleric intellectual who wrote many books regarding Islamic sects in Iran. Kasravi’s books have enlightened the new generation of Iranians concerning religious superstitions. Tragically, Kasravi was murdered in 1946, on the order of the leading Shia clerics, by the followers of an organization called Fada’yan Islam (devotees to Islam).

As is known well in the Iranian-American diasporas, President Joe Biden has friendly relations with the Islamist ideologues. Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Senator Biden was sympathetic to a few Islamist political activists who later became the top officials in the Islamic regime in Iran. Last year in May, President Biden said, “I didn’t know what the hidden Imam was — so I went out and hired a full professor of Islamic studies who came to work with me.”[2] Also, London has always been keen to use fundamentalist Islamists against progressive movements in the Middle East. Robert Dreyfuss’ books show how British Imperialism used Islamic fundamentalism to promote its colonial policies. Dreyfuss has chronicled how the Carter administration, in collaboration with British intelligence and the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, brought Ayatollah Khomeini to Power.[3] Washington’s politicians, especially Democrats, are pursuing the same British policy. London and Washington support the Islamist ideologues to prevent the Iranian political elites from ruling the country.

It appears Washington tries to preserve the Islamic regime by negotiating deals behind the scenes with the mullahs. In late September this year, the Biden Administration swapped five prisoners with Iran and released transferring $6 billion of Iran’s money to be used by the clerics in Tehran to prop up their regime. Biden hopes the unofficial easing of the sanctions on Iran’s oil could help to increase worldwide oil exports and thus prevent higher oil prices. That will help Biden’s re-election next year as he runs very low in the polls. In recent months, Iran’s oil export has reached to about 2 million barrels per day.[4]  At the same time, Biden wants to get concessions on Iran’s nuclear program to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Islamic regime is suffering from recent uprisings against it, and its popularity has fallen to less than 20 percent of the population, according to GAMAAN.[5]  While there is a progressive movement by the young generation of Iranians to get rid of the ruling clerics, why do Washington and London want to preserve the antiquated theocracy in Iran?

There are several reasons for the Anglo-American support of the mullahs to stay in power in Iran. Firstly, preserving Shia theocracy promotes divisions between Shi’a and Sunni populations and provides a ground for the Balkanization of Iran, based on religious and ethnic differences in a few provinces. Following the Kurdish woman’s death, Mahsa Amini, there have been continuous anti-clerical uprisings in the country’s northwest province of Kurdistan and in the southeast province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Secondly, it promotes Mullahs’ superstitious ideas in the country’s schools, which leads to brainwashing the students and downgrading the educational system. The regime has started a new wave of purging highly qualified professors from major universities and replacing them with Islamic ideologues who have seminary education. Thirdly, taking advantage of the lumpen Iranians religious beliefs, preserving the Mullahs in power weakens the country and subjects it to their control and influence.

While the clerics claim they have divine rights to rule and are not willing to step down, it appears they are open to negotiating with the “Great Satan” to prevent the collapse of their regime. Last month, the Islamic Republic President, Ebrahim Raisi, attended the 78th session of the United Nations in New York. On September 19, Raisi delivered a speech before the UN General Assembly. While holding a Qur’an in his right hand, he used the UN platform like a pulpit in a mosque to deliver a sermon. He began preaching in Arabic and then switched to Farsi to propagate Islamic propaganda. He said, “Qur’an is the word of God”, and defended the teachings of the holy book. To legitimize the Islamic rule in the country and the regime’s brutal crackdown on the protestors is justified by God, he said, “We firmly believe that based on God’s providence and will, as promised by God’s prophets, justice will become universal, and the government of God’s righteous servants will rule all over the earth, and humanity will be saved with the growth of awareness and the destruction of ignorance.”

He said, “Western domination no longer works” and the “project of Americanizing the world has failed,” “old powers are declining, and the future belongs to us.”[6] He attacked Western domination, ignoring that his clerical regime is the result of a Western imperialism plot. He claimed the US sanctions has not affected Iran, despite the fact that the Iranian currency rial has fallen to a historic low versus the dollar and Iranians are suffering from skyrocketed inflation.

He said, “America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was a violation of the Muslim principle of faithfulness to the covenant. The US government continues to avoid fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA by clearly violating the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2231.” He stated nuclear weapons are not a part of Iran’s defense strategy, “Nuclear weapons have no place in the defiance doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He called on the United States to demonstrate “goodwill” in order to revive the nuclear agreement abandoned by Washington in 2018.

While Raisi was in New York, American corporate media interviewed him and his wife, Jamileh Alamolhoda, who is the daughter of Ahmad Alamolhoda, a reactionary cleric.  ABC News named the old-fashioned woman “Iran’s First Laday” and gave her a platform to defend the regime’s ruthless suppression of women and to legitimize the new hejab law. Incidentally, on September 20, the parliament approved new “hijab and chastity” legislation for a three-year duration on a trial basis. The law has more than 70 articles that mandate financial penalties for hijab violations. Breaking the hejab law could be punished with up to 10 years in prison. Iran’s hijab law is considered “gender apartheid” by the women rights’ activists. In response to last year’s brutal killings, Alamolhoda said, “Many were killed, but in defending the Islamic Republic of Iran,” despite the fact that according to the Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights, some 500 protestors, including 71 children, were killed, and about 20,000 individuals were arrested during the uprisings last year.[7]

While the Iranian nationalists, women rights activists, and secular political groups are mobilizing to oust the clerics from power, London and Washinton are trying to prevent the regime from falling, despite the fact that the time of mullahs’ regime is up and propping up their regime is useless.

Akbar E. Torbat ([email protected]) is the author of “Politics of Oil and Nuclear Technology in Iran,” Palgrave Macmillan (2020), https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030337650. He received his Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shi%CA%BFism_(book)

[2] Remarks by President Biden at a Reception to Celebrate Eid al-Fitr, MAY 02, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/05/02/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-reception-to-celebrate-eid-al-fitr/

[3] Page ix.

[4] Alaric Nightingale, August 21, 2023, Iran’s Booming Oil Flows Surge Above 2 Million Barrels a Day., https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-08-21/iran-s-booming-oil-flows-surge-above-2-million-barrels-a-day?embedded-checkout=true .

[5] GAMAAN (Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran), using online polling…, https://gamaan.org/2022/03/31/political-systems-survey-english/

[6] https://gadebate.un.org/en/78/iran-islamic-republic

[7] https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2023/06/iran-update-human-rights

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