Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat

Article excerpt

Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat

"Hence loathed melancholy of

Cerberus and blackest midnight born

In Stygian caves forlorn.

Mongst horrid shapes and shrieks

And sights unholy."

--From Il Penseroso by John Milton

English poet John Milton left little doubt about his extreme distaste for melancholy. A distaste just as strong is probably shared by most Americans toward the present Islamic-centered regime in Tehran. This is the government that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in Tehran from 1979 to 1981 in humiliating and increasingly dangerous conditions. As a leading Tehran editor recently put it, "You Americans will never forget [your bitterness over] the 52 hostages."

Mohammad Mohaddessin, author of Islamic Fundamentalism and a leading official in the International Relations Department of the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran, a major opposition group, seeks to replace the present Tehran regime with a democratic government. If any American needs convincing that this would be an improvement, this will be provided by the author's copiously footnoted accounts of brutality and corruption inside contemporary Iran, and Iranian government sponsorship of subversion and terrorism abroad.

In addition to its political-diplomatic arm, the Mojahedin organization fields a large anti-Tehran military force deployed on the Iraqi side of the Iran-Iraq border. Mohadessin's 15-chapter book makes an urgent case for the overthrow of what he persuasively describes as Iran's economically, politically and morally bankrupt regime before it can achieve an external success by setting up a spin-off Islamic republic in some other country. He fears that the changed situation in the Gulf following the two wars of 1980 to 1988 and 1990 and 1991, and the collapse of Russian power in the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union, gives Tehran's ruling mullahs a dangerous new opportunity.

Although he titled his book Islamic Fundamentalism, author Mohaddessin concentrates almost exclusively on Iran and the fundamentalist regime established there in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and run today by President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Looking back to late 1978, it had become apparent to most observers that Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi would lose his throne and that Iran's Muslim clerics, the mullahs, would be the dominant force in any new regime. Those with Iran's best interests in mind hoped, however, that the mullahs, with no relevant experience, would not try to govern directly.

But the fear that, if they did, the mullahs would prove to be incompetent to govern soon became reality as the mullahs ruled, and ruined, their country. Citing hundreds of documented events, Mohaddessin depicts a real-life house of horrors in contemporary Iran. For example, of Iran's work force of 24 million, only 5 million are employed in its utterly devastated economy. Still, according to Mohaddessin, the regime is spending $50 billion on a five-year military buildup that began in 1989.

Islamic Fundamentalism describes the resulting chemical and nuclear plants, heightening the impression of a regime pursuing military power at all costs. The book cites a Peoples Mojahedin report that Iran has paid the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan for four nuclear warheads, but that they have not yet been delivered.

Not only are the mullahs ruling Iran directly, but they are doing so under the theory of Vali-E-Faqih, an ecclesiastical version of the long- discredited divine right of kings. This vests absolute power, both religious and temporal, in one man with supposedly extraordinary knowledge of Islamic law. Mohaddessin quotes high-ranking mullahs as saying that the regime's ultimate goal looks beyond Iran to worldwide authority. …

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