Iran is turning its face to the North. One day there will be a
central Asian Common Market with Iran as a member.
— Hamid Reza Assefi, spokesman,
Iran Foreign Ministry
Before leaving Parliament in 1990 I paid one more visit to revolutionary Iran, this time traveling with a visa provided by the Islamic government’s mission in London. It was a humiliating time for Iran and the mullahs. The war with Iraq which two years earlier the resurgent Iranians had looked like winning, petered out as Khomeini accepted a U.N.-brokered cease fire which the Ayatollah described as “like drinking a poisoned chalice.” The cost to Iran had been dreadful: one-third of a million killed and three times that number wounded; a huge reduction in its gross domestic product as output fell by 40 percent; and a corresponding increase in poverty and unemployment. Not long afterwards Ayatollah Khomeini died of a heart attack precipitating a tsunami of lamentations. His funeral was marked by a grotesque incident when the pallbearers opened his coffin to allow the breast-beating mourners one last glimpse of the Redeemer. His naked corpse slid out into the arms of the horrified crowd.
The Ayatollah’s religious successor, Sayed Ali Khamenei, responded to the national mood of disenchantment over Iran’s
Khomeini’s death in 1989 precipitated
a tsunami of grief. His pallbearers
tipped his corpse into the crowd of mourners.