35 Years after the Iranian Revolution, Concerns of Middle Eastern Stability Remain » ADL Blogs
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February 11, 2014 0

35 Years after the Iranian Revolution, Concerns of Middle Eastern Stability Remain

Feb­ru­ary 11 marks 35 years since the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of Aya­tol­lah Khomeni’s Islamic Repub­lic of Iran.  Look­ing back at the Jew­ish community’s pub­lic state­ments from the time, it is strik­ing how many of the con­cerns expressed about the region-wide impli­ca­tions of the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion are still rel­e­vant today.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Aya­tol­lah Khomeini

In an op-ed pub­lished in Jan­u­ary 1979, the Anti-Defamation League exam­ined the impact of the Iran­ian cri­sis on Israel and the West at a moment when it was unclear who would gov­ern Iran: a fun­da­men­tal­ist Islamic gov­ern­ment, right-wing mil­i­tary rule or a leftist-Communist ori­ented regime.

Not unlike the sen­ti­ment expressed fol­low­ing the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in 2011, in 1979 there was great fear of the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of Saudi Ara­bia and the Gulf States to a sim­i­lar rev­o­lu­tion. Should that hap­pen, ADL wrote, “the fate of Kuwait, the United Arab Emi­rates and Oman would most likely be sealed if the Shah is deposed and if Saudi Ara­bia expe­ri­ences sim­i­lar troubles.”

And as today, when ana­lysts and even some Mid­dle East lead­ers have accused Wash­ing­ton of mis­read­ing and mis­play­ing regional devel­op­ments in Iran, Syria, Egypt and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, ADL crit­i­cized the long­stand­ing U.S. pol­icy which relied on the sta­bil­ity of Saudi Ara­bia and Iran:

 

The assump­tion has been that if Saudi Ara­bia and Iran were heav­ily armed with both U.S. polit­i­cal sup­port and American-made weapons, they could with­stand any and all attempts at over­throw and inva­sion by neigh­bor­ing Soviet-backed ene­mies of by inter­nal rad­i­cal insur­rec­tion­ists. As the Shah loses his grip over Iran, the rea­son­ing behind America’s Per­sian Gulf pol­icy appears to have been specious.”

 

In a line which could eas­ily have been writ­ten dur­ing any point over the past 35 years, our op-ed posited:  “In an era that is expe­ri­enc­ing a rise in rad­i­cal­ism and insta­bil­ity, Israel is the only sta­ble nation.  If, as some Admin­is­tra­tion and State Depart­ment offi­cials acknowl­edged recently, Amer­i­can intel­li­gence had mis­read and under­es­ti­mated the threat to the Shah, could it be that it is mis­read­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of the Saudi royal fam­ily or under­es­ti­mat­ing Israel’s strate­gic importance?”

Even as we enter an era of grow­ing energy inde­pen­dence in the U.S. and ris­ing hopes about sig­nif­i­cant Israeli fuel sources, the strate­gic impli­ca­tions of a shut-off of Mid­dle East­ern oil still leads to great global anx­i­ety. In 1979, the specter of los­ing Iran­ian oil was a calamity for the West and Israel. As we wrote: “Twelve per­cent of Amer­i­can for­eign oil imports and five per­cent of its total con­sump­tion are Iran­ian.  The fig­ure for West­ern Europe and Japan are even more impos­ing: 16% of oil con­sump­tion in Japan is from Iran­ian oil fields, 15% in Italy, 14% in Britain, 11% in West Ger­many and 10% in Canada.  And for Israel, the fig­ures go even higher – fully 60–80% of Israel’s oil comes from Iran.”

Most trag­i­cally, our op-ed high­lighted fears for the wel­fare of the ven­er­a­ble Jew­ish com­mu­nity of Iran, which then num­bered over 80,000:  “While some Moslem reli­gious lead­ers have issued state­ments assur­ing Iran­ian Jewry that they would be able to live as a ‘pro­tected minor­ity’ under an ‘Islamic Repub­lic,’ it is clear that any change in gov­ern­ment would raise ques­tions about the future via­bil­ity of a com­mu­nity that dates back 25 centuries…Recent rev­e­la­tions about anti-Semitic speeches deliv­ered by Khome­ini in Iraq have only served to con­firm Iran­ian Jewry’s appre­hen­sion about liv­ing under an ‘Islamic republic.’”

Today, with a frac­tion of that com­mu­nity remain­ing in Iran, Jews world­wide still worry about their secu­rity and well-being.

Thirty-five years ago, Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram, its spon­sor­ship of inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, and sup­port for the per­pet­u­a­tion of the bru­tal Assad regime in Syria weren’t quite on the radar screen.  Yet it is strik­ing that Iran and the region’s insta­bil­ity and unpre­dictabil­ity remained a con­stant over the years.