The Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile on February 1, 1979
On April 1, 1979, Khomeini declared Iran the world's first "Islamic Republic."
FLASH: Islamic Radicals threaten to attack Washington directly — “Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world … The maximum they can do is martyr me. But we will exact our revenge on them from inside America.”
It was thirty years ago today that the Ayatollah Khomeini declared Iran to be the world’s first “Islamic Republic,” that is, the first country in human history that would be governed by Sharia law, the laws of the Qur’an. Yet as I document in my new book, Inside The Revolution, the Carter administration at the time completely missed the explosion of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the fall of the Shah, the rise of Khomeini, and later the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that led to 52 Americans being held hostage for 444 humiliating days.
Admiral Stansfield Turner, the director of the CIA under President Carter, would later admit in his memoirs, “We in the CIA served the president badly with respect to our coverage of the Iranian scene….We had not appreciated how shaky the Shah’s political foundation was; did not know the Shah was terminally ill; did not understand who Khomeini was and the support his movement had; did not have a clue as to who the hostage-takers were or what their objective was….We were just plain asleep.”
Thirty years later, the question is: Does the Obama administration understand who the leaders of Iran are today? Do they understand the eschatology — or End Times theology — held by the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and how such deeply-held religious beliefs are driving Iranian foreign policy and military doctrine? Do they understand that Iran’s current leaders believe they have been chosen by God to bring about the end of the world, that this is why they are hell-bent on acquiring or building nuclear weapons?
Last week, I met on Capitol Hill with a bipartisan group of nine current and former Members of Congress. They told me neither they nor their colleagues have been well briefed on such issues, nor has senior administration officials. Yet the President is embarking on a policy of direct contact and direct negotiations with a nation whose leaders he may not truly understand.
One leader who does understand the apocalyptic, cultish nature of Iran’s leadership is new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told The Atlantic magazine. The Iranian drive for a nuclear weapon was a “hinge of history,” he said, emphasizing that all of “Western civilization” was responsible for preventing an Iranian bomb. “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” Netanyahu said of the Iranian regime. “When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”
It is not just Iran’s leaders that should concern us. Al Qaeda’s leaders say publicly they want to annihilate us. Top CIA officials tell me they believe bin Laden’s forces are actively seeking nuclear weapons to annihilate entire American cities. And just this morning, the London Times quotes a Pakistani Taliban leader warning: “Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world … The maximum they can do is martyr me. But we will exact our revenge on them from inside America.”
Please pray the Lord protects our country and gives our President and his senior advisors wisdom. Pray, too, that hte Lord gives Prime Minister Netanyahu wisdom to protect the Jewish people at this critical hour, and that the Lord would use him to explain to world leaders — including those in Washington — who the leaders of Iran really are, what they really want, and how far they are willing to go to accomplish their objectives.
Washington, I fear, is “just plain asleep” again. It is time to wake them up.
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Excerpts from Inside The Revolution on how Washington missed the Islamic Revolution:
On November 15, 1977, President Jimmy Carter hosted the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his wife, Empress Farah, at a sumptuous state reception on the South Lawn of the White House. Despite thousands of Iranian students protesting outside the White House gates, denouncing the shah’s human rights abuses and restrictions on personal freedom in the country of their birth, the president spoke warmly of his “close personal friendship” with the shah and called Iran “an island of stability” in the Middle East, reflecting on the personal and strategic ties between the two men and the nations they led.
Carter was the eighth American president to know the shah personally. The first was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had met the Persian monarch in the Iranian capital of Tehran in 1943 at a summit with Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill, seeking a way to stop Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine, which was rampaging through Europe and the Middle East.
Since that summit and the subsequent conclusion of World War II, Iran had emerged as a key and trusted ally of the United States and the Western alliance, as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism in the Middle East, and as a major supplier of oil to American industries and families. Washington feared Moscow’s desire to seize the oil fields of the Middle East and control the Persian Gulf and the oil shipping routes to the West. It was a fear the shah and his top advisors shared. They had no desire to become a Kremlin satellite, so they turned to the Americans for help, and Washington readily responded.
Over the next three decades, the U.S. sold Iran advanced American fighter jets, naval assets, and all manner of others arms, in addition to a state-of-the-art radar system to safeguard Iranian airspace from Soviet bombers. The U.S. also trained Iranian pilots and built several intelligence-gathering outposts in the northern mountains of Iran, designed to track Soviet missile tests and intercept Soviet military communications. During the coldest years of the Cold War, the relationship with Tehran was one the White House and the Pentagon valued deeply.
In December of 1977, merely a month after hosting the shah and his wife at the White House, President Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, accepted the shah’s reciprocal invitation to visit Tehran. Moments after Air Force One touched down in Tehran on New Year’s Eve, the president restated on Iranian television what he had expressed to the people of the United States.
“Iran is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” Carter said without any apparent reservation and without any sense of what was coming. “This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect, admiration, and love which your people give to you.”
A year later, the shah’s regime had been toppled, the Pahlavi family had fled into exile, a radical Islamic jihadist was in power and in command of billions of dollars’ worth of advanced American weaponry, and oil had stopped flowing into the U.S. from Iran.
And top officials in Washington had not seen it coming.
“We knew there was some resentment [to the shah],” Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, would later comment. “We knew somewhat of the history of the country, but we were not conscious, nor were we informed, of the intensity of the feelings.”
How was that possible? How could the best and brightest minds in the White House, State Department, and Central Intelligence Agency have missed the lead-up to the Islamic Revolution in Iran? And thirty years later, is it possible that Washington could miss the danger rising in Iran once again?
……It was not hard to find evidence of anti-shah sentiment building in Iran in the mid-1970s. Ruhollah Khomeini, the fiery Shia Islamic cleric widely known as “the ayatollah,” had been railing against the shah for decades at that point, often from exile in Turkey, Iraq, or France.
“The Shah . . . has embarked on the destruction of Islam in Iran,” warned Khomeini. “I will oppose this as long as the blood circulates in my veins.” In nearly every sermon and in almost every book and article that he wrote, Khomeini denounced the shah as a traitor to Islam and a betrayer of the Iranian people, and he found he was touching a nerve. The more forcefully he preached against the shah’s regime, the more Iranians responded to his message and called for change…..
Tens of thousands—and then hundreds of thousands—of enraged Iranians soon began pouring into the streets, denouncing the shah and his regime and calling for the immediate return of the ayatollah. As the riots spread from city to city, people began throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, and the police fired back. Over the course of the next few months, an estimated three thousand Iranian protestors were killed by the forces of the shah.
Incredibly, however, that same August CIA Director Stansfield Turner’s top Iran experts were telling him that “the Shah would survive another ten years.”
Worse, the CIA sent a written analysis to President Carter arguing that Iran “is not in a revolutionary or even a prerevolutionary situation.”
Gary Sick, a staffer on the Carter National Security Council as the Iranian Revolution began, would later admit that “the notion of a popular [Islamic] revolution leading to the establishment of a theocratic state seemed so unlikely as to be absurd.”
Ken Pollack, a Middle East specialist on President Clinton’s National Security Council, would later concede that “virtually all of the Iran experts in Washington . . . believed that the Shah would be able to weather the storm.”
New York Times intelligence correspondent Tim Weiner, in his 2007 book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, concluded after years of research that “the idea that religion would prove to be a compelling political force in the late twentieth century was incomprehensible” to Washington officials at the time and that “few at the CIA believed that an ancient cleric could seize power and proclaim Iran an Islamic republic.”
Mark Bowden, the award-winning journalist and author of Black Hawk Down and Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, drew a similar, sobering conclusion after years of his own research: “By 1978, the Peacock Throne was teetering. Not that American intelligence and military assessments realized it; it was uniformly predicted that the shah would weather the storm. What the Western intelligence reports missed was the awakening giant of traditional Islam, a grassroots rebellion against the values of the secular, modern world. The rise of Khomeini and the mullahocracy took everyone by surprise.”
…..On January 16, 1979, the Shah and his family fled Iran.
…..On February 1, 1979, the Revolution came home. The chartered Air France 747 touched down in Tehran at Mehrabad International Airport at precisely 9:33 a.m. local time and was immediately greeted by a rapturous welcome. An estimated fifty thousand Iranians had converged on the terminal, tarmac, and grounds, some weeping, some wailing, all desperate to get a glimpse of the man they suspected might, in fact, be the Twelfth Imam they had so long awaited.
“The holy one has come!” the crowds chanted as the Ayatollah Khomeini, tall and slender with a long gray beard and dark, brooding eyes, draped in black robes and his signature black turban, stepped out into the morning air. Now seventy-eight, he looked somewhat tired at first, even tearful, as he waved a bit feebly to the cheering throngs. But as the roars grew and people screamed, “He is the light of our lives!” the firebrand seemed to draw energy and resolve from the crowd. The shah was gone, Khomeini was back, and the country was his for the taking….
On March 30 and 31, millions of Iranians went to the polls, and then, on April 1, 1979, Khomeini officially announced that the referendum had passed overwhelmingly, with 97 percent of the vote. Iran was now the first Islamic Republic in the history of the world.
“I declare to the whole world that never has the history of Iran witnessed such a referendum,” Khomeini noted that day from his home in Qom, “where the whole country rushed to the polls with ardor, enthusiasm, and love to cast their affirmative votes and bury the tyrannical regime forever in the garbage heap of history. . . . By casting a decisive vote in favor of the Islamic Republic, you have established a government of divine justice, a government in which all the segments of the population shall enjoy equal consideration, the light of divine justice shall shine uniformly on all, and the divine mercy of the Qur’an . . . shall embrace all, like life-giving rain. . . . Tyranny has been buried. . . . This day [is] the first day of God’s government.”