Chairman: Twenty years on the Iranian Revolution is still here and it is still causing controversy. People are still interested in what goes on in Iran. Some support what is going on while others oppose it. However the process of change is taking place. Many people believe that what is taking place now, especially since the ascendancy of Mr Khatemi to the presidency, is an encouraging development in an area where change is very slow to come by.
          Only last week King Hussein of Jordan died after almost 50 years in power. Again, that event caused controversy.
          What is the essence of change? Is there a need for change in the region?  Should people remain in power for 20, 30 or 40 years?  Should there be democratic institutions within that region? All these questions are being asked. Today my two colleagues will be highlighting the developments in the  Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Dr Ali Paya: The topic of my talk, as you already know, is the role of Islamic intellectuals in Iran and the Islamic Revolution.
          I will divide the periods of the formation of the Iranian intellectual movement right from the beginning into five stages. The Iranian intellectual movement  started about two centuries ago. The first encounter  between the Islamic countries and the West resulted in some defeats for  Islamic states. One of the reactions towards those defeats was a determination for radical change.
          The first step in that direction was taken by an enlightened Iranian prince of the Bajar dynasty. About 150 years ago he decided to bring about some changes on the model of Western countries. He sent  students to England to study various subjects.
          From then on the modern intellectual movement in Iran started and went through different phases. I shall try to give you some details about each stage of development. I will concentrating  mainly on the period between the 1960s up to the advent of the revolution.
          The first movement (19th century to 1906), took place during  the constitutional revolution. The figures during this period were Sajan ul Din,   Sajar Al Din  and Reza Kompan. These early figures set models for the later generations of intellectuals. Kompan wasmostly advocating a return to Islam, the origins and the sources. His policy was the revitalising of  Islam.
          Other were  of the view that to bring about change Islamic countries  should follow  exactly and unconditionally  the models which are being used in the West. He wrote a book called The Torch pointing out that in order to communicate new ideas to traditional society one should be a bit careful.
          "We have far better ideas which were by no means acceptable  but  when they came from Europe they were accepted at once with the greatest delight when it was proved that they were latent in Islam. I can assure that  in the little progress which you see in Persia and Turkey, especially in Persia it needs to be said that some people have taken European principles, and instead of saying they come from England, France or Germany they have said they  have nothing to do with Europeans. But these are the true principles of  our religion and indeed this is quite true. That has had a marvellous effect at once".
          During the constitutional revolution those intellectuals who were following the line of Khan were very successful in turning the course of events in their own favour.
          The second stage in the development of the Iranian intellectual movement starts from 1906 to 1941, when Reza Shah the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty was ousted.
          During this period Reza Shah would not tolerate any political dissent or any political activities so our intellectuals were forced to concentrate mostly on purely literary research.  Islamic research is visible during that period.
          Because Reza Shah was actively promoting the anti-Islamic policy, intellectuals were encouraged to produce books, ideas and views which would glorify  pre-Islamic civilisation and heritage as a tool against the current Islamic trend in society.
          So this was another instrument surrounding the Islamic movement during that period. A number of other intellectuals were pursuing the policy of purifying the Persian language from Arabic words etc
          The third period in the development of the Iranian intellectual movement starts from 1941 and ends in 1953 when the CIA coup against the government of Mosadeq was successful in restoring Reza Shah.
          During this period, due to the fact that Reza Shah was  weak and had not yet managed to stamp his authority on the course of events, intellectuals had a relatively free hand to do what they wished to. Therefore it is not astonishing to see that a number of different trends came to the fore.
          Among them was the burgeoning leftist movement. A group of intellectuals  who studied in  Western European countries came to be known as Group 53. They established a leftist party and tried to introduce leftist ideas to  Iranian society.
          A number of books were translated into Persian. However one of the shortcomings ofthis movement for introducing Western ideas was that most of the books  which were translated  were from secondary sources.  They were not actually helping  to further the knowledge of the indigenous people very much.
          One  point which needs to be emphasised is that when our first group of students were sent to Europe none of them were appointed to study either philosophy or to do some research in the fundamental aspects of modern knowledge. None studied physics,  maths  or other sciences
          This is interesting in a number of respects not  least because the tradition of abstract thinking in Iran, in contrast to other Muslim countries, was quite strong. In fact apart from Ibn Rushdt and Kindi all other Muslim philosophers were Iranian. Mohammed Ezidi emerged in  Arab countries. In Iran the flame was still alive and lots of new schools of thought were developed.
          Despite this tradition, none of the students were asked to study Western philosophy. Even today the Iranian intellectual movement is suffering from that very short-coming. It is interesting that Jamal,  the other pioneer, in 1882 tried to draw the attention of his followers to the very fact that the study of philosophy is necessary.
          He noticed that  philosophy is needed to be the complimentary source of all the sciences so that it can preserve their existence and  put  each of them in its proper place and  act as a catalyst for  the  progress of each of  the sciences.
          The science which plays the role of the preserving force is the science of philosophy because its subject is universal. Philosophy shows man’s human pre-requisites. It shows science what is necessary and places the other sciences in their proper context.
          If a community did not have philosophy and all the religions of that community were mirrored in the sciences,  those sciences could not last in that community for a century.  That community, without  the spirit philosophy, would produce confusion from these sciences. We say that if the spiritual  of philosophy were found in a community, even if that community did not have a particular science, undoubtly the philosophical spirit would call for the acquisition  of all the sciences.
          The first Muslims have no science, but thanks to the Islamic religion, the philosophical  spirit arose among them and due to that philosophical spirit they began to discuss the general affairs of the world and human necessities.
          This was why they acquired all the sciences  and in a short time translated   books from Syriac, Persian and Greek into Arabic. It is philosophy that makes man understandable to man, explains human knowledge and shows man the proper road.
          The first effect appearing in a nation that is heading towards decline is a loss of its philosophical spirit. After that deficiency spreads into other sciences, arts and associations.
          So dispute this warning nobody paid attention to the importance of  grasping the morefundamental aspects of Western science.
          Between 1941 and 1953, apart from the leftist intellectuals,  a nucleus of Muslim intellectuals began their activities. Foremost among them was Bazagan. He decided to combat the propaganda of the leftists by showing to the younger generation that there is no incompatibility between Islam and science.
          He introduced a new genre into the intellectual literature of Iran which was later on emulated by a number of more conservative clergyman.
          The next phase of the development of the Iranian intellectual movement starts from 1953 and ends with the advent of the revolution.
          During this critical phase a large number of changes took place within the movement. Newer strands appeared and a number of older trends disappeared. Among those strands which disappeared where the attempts of those individuals who were advocating a return to  pre-Islamic civilisation and ideas.
          There was a new leftist movement. I emphasise the adjective ‘new’ because when the coup occurred the largest leftist party in Iran, the Tudeh Party, did not support Mosedeq, the national prime minister. Because of that it lost credibility among the younger generation.
          Those who were dillusioned with the Tudeh Party and yet had some faith in Marxism and  branched out and developed their ideas almost independently of Moscow and the Soviet Union.
          These intellectuals tried to introduce a number of revolutionary ideas to Iranian society. They focused mostly on literary works. They were translating novels, or writing novels. They were translating poetry and they were trying to almost monopolise the literary scene so that they could convey their messages to their authoritative audiences.
          There was a new trend which encompassed a number of more enlightened ulema and clergymen. These clergymen in tandem with some non-political intellectuals, came to the conclusion that in order to further their cause and gain popularity among the younger generation they must focus on the element of cultural education. Because they have not been able to put their message forward in a clear way they had lost their generation to  Marxist or secular views.
          So in order to stem the tide they decided to introduce the messages in new wrappings. This heralds the beginning of a new phase of activities among the more religiously minded intellectuals.
          One of the watersheds of the period was the uprising of 1963 after Ayatollah Khomeini had spoken against the Shah, which resulted in his house arrest and then his exile. The people in Tehran staged a revolt which was briskly put down with high casualties. The impact of this incident was enormous not least because most the secular intellectuals remained quite silent about it. This in the later years produced a sense of guilt.
          One of the intellectuals who was highly influenced by this particular event,  was an essayist, a researcher and a writer called Allah Ahmed.  On the one hand he condemned the secular intellectuals who had not been effective enough in carrying out their duties as intellectuals. On the other hand he preached a message that the only solution against the onslaught of alien ideas is to return to the sources and to revive an Iranian identity by taking note of its main ingredients.
          He pointed out that  among the main ingredients was the religion of Islam  (Shi’ism) and he urged the secular intellectuals to reconcile their ways with more religiously orientated intellectuals and thinkers. He wrote the treatise after the revolt and it  influenced both the secular  and the Moslem intellectuals. They both decided to implement the ideas which he  propounded.
          On the Islamic side people like Ayatollah Mutahari and Dr Shariati carried out a research programme introduced by Allah Ahmed. On the secular side the secular intellectuals embarked on a new project called politically committed literature.
          They  came to the conclusion that they have the duty to speak for those who are not able to speak for themselves. They have to convey messages of resistance to the masses.  They have to awaken the consciousness of the ordinary people.
These two strands, one on the secular side the other on the religious side, helped to shape the minds and hearts of the younger generations. I myself was studying in those days and I remember how influential these two strands were in changing the views of the students.
          However this almost happy course of events took another unexpected turn. One of that outcomes of that uprising was that a younger, more militant generation of activists came to the conclusion that the only way to get rid of the Shah’s regime and the influence of the imperialists was the armed struggle. They came to the  conclusion that cultural activities were futile and they must put an end to them.
          So they formed the first underground militia groups and launched some attacks on the secret services.  The method of their activities was that the already ideologically  charged  atmosphere of Iran was even more charged and they adopted an even more radical stance.
          It was a time when  those who wanted to be able to convey their messages to the younger generation had to be seen to be quite active, to be in line with those more militant elements.
          This had  an unfortunate effect on the more moderate elements and forced them to change course and abandon their more moderate programmes and take a more apologetic tone. So instead educating the younger generation in a more rational rather than emotional way they started to imitate the messages of those militant groups and mix slogans.
          In the end the combined effect of the more militant groups on the religious and secular intellectuals helped to shape a new  consciousness among large groups of educated people in almost all the cities.
          These people were ready to  jump into action and when the call came from Ayatollah Khomeini he already had audiences which were eager to follow his orders and do whatever he wanted them to do.
          In this sense the Iranian intellectuals assisted the revolution a great deal. However when the younger revolutionaries came to power because the process of educating them was not complete, they lacked not only experience but sometimes expertise to deal with more sophisticated issues of running the government.
          I conclude my talk by mentioning that the intellectual movement in Iran has entered a new phase after the revolution. Gone are those more  ideologically-orientated approaches and  more emotional attitudes. In place of those rather old fashioned models Iranian intellectuals have now come to the conclusion that a more rational and realistic approach is needed if they are going to solve the problems which are facing society.
          Nobody nowadays would condemn this unconditionally. Nobody nowadays would praise  Islamic heritage uncritically. Iranian intellectuals are now trying to convey the message of critical rationalism. They are trying to educate the younger generation in this. If they want to succeed, if they want to come up with relevant models they must take a more calculated and rational approach towards the complicated problems  which are still facing the revolution.
Chairman: I think what Dr Paya mentioned  is very important. He went through the thought process of the Iranian intellectuals over the past 100 years. The way he ended his discussion is very important. That will be open to debate. I expect people will be more interested in knowing how modern intellectuals in Iran are behaving,  and in their role in the process of change which is taking place.
George JoffeGeorge Joffe: Let me say for a start that I am not expert on Iran. Indeed by job at Chatham House as the director of studies is to take a more global view of world affairs. To some extend the title is very convenient in allowing me to do that.
          Dr Paya’s remarks provide me with a very good point at which to start. In fact I think what I understood from his remarks at the end is that the  Iranian Revolution is going through a process of maturing. I don’t mean to be in any way condescending but I would like to draw a parallel.
          It seems to me that in the post colonial period in the Middle East and in the wider West Asian Islamic  World there were two genuine revolutions, by which I mean those which brought about changes in the social and political order that were absolutely fundamental and after they occurred left behind states and societies  different from those which existed before.
          They are the Algerian Revolution in 1954 – 62 and the Iranian Revolution from 1979. In saying that I make no judgement about whether they were good or bad, I merely point outthat they occurred.
          You will note that the outcome of those two revolutions today is very different. Whereas in Algeria  there is a growing social and political crisis and we don’t know how it is going to be resolved,  but  the resolution is not going to be very attractive.
          In the case of Iran, despite all the vissictudes of the last 20 years  there is a viable society that is actually dealing with the problems of the modern world.
          That is not to say that there aren’t tremendous problems in Iran.  But in a way the arrival of President Khatemi to power was not a statement, as many people thought in the West, of a reversal of the revolutionary process. I see it much more as a culmination of that process. And that seems to be to be tremendously important.
          We know that there are still tremendous problems. There are conservative groups  which may resent the ways in which the balance of power may have changed. There are certain groups which are occasionally out of control as the recent resignation of the intelligence minister indicates.
          There is certainly more than once centre of power in Iran between, on the one hand, the president and  the supreme leader. And no doubt you could actually think  of other groups and focuses of power.
          But despite all that there is an intellectual ferment in  Iran that is leading towards a series of conclusions which seem to me to indicate the institutionalisation of the revolution.
          It is  important  that Iran today,  as a result of the elections almost two years ago, has seen the creation of what is crucial in any society that is going to be viable.
          Indeed in the recent development over the murders of intellectuals the growth of the establishment of  the independent rule of law.
          I don’t mean by that again to undermine the significance of the principles of the revolution, but just to point out that  in any state for it to be viable, the rule of law has to be independent of political power.
          In the Iranian Revolution the initial process is the process of control of political power and therefore normally speaking that division does not exist. I feel in some respects very confident and  am looking forward to seeing  what changes take place. These changes must be set against the background of very difficult circumstances and that brings me on to the real point of my remarks.
          We all know that apart from political issues, Iran faces today a very serious economic situation. It has had to face for the last ten years effective isolation from large parts of the outside world because of the decisions of other states.
          Before that it had the debilitating consequences of eight years of war. And on top of that because it is a country which not only has a population of around 60 million people and until recently one of the highest growth rates in the world an economy which is dependent onoil. The problem of oil is that its value is set by others than yourselves. The result of that is today is that Iran, like major oil producers, finds  its economic returns are being radically reduced by 50 percent or more.
          And although the Iranian authorities and population have tried to create alternative economic structure oil has a curse about it. It is perhaps the least thing with which you want to be blessed. And the curse is that nothing is as efficient and attractive as producing oil and creating an  alternative economy is virtually impossible.
          Iran has  an  additional problem – it is a high capital absorber and  it needs the revenues because it has a large population which demands services. It is a young population which needs to be trained. This may be an investment for the future  but at the present time it is a cost.
          Not surprisingly, therefore, despite all the efforts of successive governments, there is continuing inflation. The  riyal has dropped  and stands at 1200 to $1. There are going to be problems. There is discontent and this is perfectly normal.
          But despite all that I am struck by the fact that there is a continuing effective polity and society.  That seems to me to indicate the maturity of the revolution and in itself.
          The real problem facing Iran today does not lie within its national boundaries. It lies much more in the position it occupies in the region of the Persian Gulf and indeed in the wider implications of Iran and the success of its revolution.
          The usual view of Iran is that it stands on the edge of the Middle East and is a  state on the Persian Gulf.  As such it is important, no doubt, but marginal. After the end of the Cold War in 1989 Iran’s geo-political position changed radically. It seems to me developments since than have only emphasised this.
          Iran is today  perhaps the key state for the region of Western Asia. That is to say the non-Arab Muslim world butting against the Middle East. It is the country that controls access to the Persian Gulf. It has the longest coastline of any state in the  Gulf region as well as the largest population. It is the state which controls access from the Persian Gulf towards Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
          And most importantly as a result of the end of the Cold War it controls the shortest axis northwards into Central Asia. It is through Iran that the new states of Central Asia can find an outlet, ironically enough to the warm waters of the Gulf, the great ambition of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, after it.
          And the means exist. Only last year a rail link was created from Iran to the ports on the Gulf right the way up to the borders of Central Asia. And despite continued attempts by the  USA to prevent its pipeline links into Central Asia and to the Caucuses are now beginning.
          They make very good economic sense. One of the  reasons why the development of oil resources in Central Asia has been delayed has not been simply because of the collapse of the price of oil but because of the political reluctance of the USA to tolerate the  idea that oil andgas in that region should be exported through Iran.
          Iran also has political connections. It is a member of the Economic Corporation Organisation along with Pakistan and Turkey. It has built its own links with south and central Asian states and indeed  even with some of the Caucasian states as well.
          It has a role to play in regional politics. It mediated in part between Azerbaijan and Syria.  It did the same thing over tensions in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It obviously has a major role to play.
          It has a problem  with Afghanistan over Taliban. But that may reflect rather wider issues. It is in  every sense though the dominant state in the region. And it still retains its crucial geo-political role inside the Gulf, even though western attention is directed towards Iraq. The fact is that it is towards Iran that Saudi Arabia now turns. Remember that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last year [1988] visited Tehran, the first time for many, many years that a senior Saudi official has actually gone there.
          Remember too that in recent years Iranian diplomats have tried to persuade the Arab Gulf states of their need to co-operate with Iran.  Not  through  threats but because it forms  sensible collective security arrangements. This view is held with some sympathy in Oman and Qatar even though in Saudi Arabia itself,  in Bahrain and Kuwait anxieties still remain.
          And there is the specific problem of tensions between the Iran and UAE over the Thumbs Islands.
          The best guarantee of the security  for the Gulf states in the future is some sort of relationship with Iran which is not one based simply on hostility and suspicion.
          Although it has to be said that hostility and suspicion remain in part no doubt caused by the legacy of the revolution. Whether those suspicions are justified remains to be seen. And it is certainly encouraging that most of the Arab states in the region have themselves been in some way encouraged by the success of President Khatemi in Iran.
          So there is a contingent relationship developing which is not simply one of hostility and I find that encouraging as well.
          If we look further afield  the European Union is  the other power which is perhaps the most important in Iranian calculations, partly because it is a consumer of  a large part of Iranian energy and also a generator of a large part of  Iran’s imports   over the last year there has been a significant improvement in relations despite the embarrassment of the Mikinos case and the end of the Rushdie affair.
          European states by and large, with perhaps the exception of this one, welcome better relations with Iran. They say it is perhaps the most important market in the Middle Eastern region. They recognise its significance in terms of oil and gas supplies and the key role that it plays in determining oil and gas prices.
          And that is in a sense another one of the legacies of the past that has been laid to rest.Having said that I have to turn to the bad news. And the bad news is that Iran  continues to suffer from that peculiar policy known as dual containment.
          The idea that for the security of the Middle East and the West both Iran and Iraq must be treated as equal enemies of Western interests. A view  held not just I suspect in view of past relations and past policies but also on the profound misunderstanding about what has actually occurred in Iran and a refusal to recognise  its significance today.
          Dual containment as a policy is no longer viable and everybody except those who maintain it know this to be the case. It has spawned the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, a piece of American legislation extra-territorial in nature that is rejected by all European states. It is maintained largely at American insistence and does not correspond to any geographical reality.
          One therefore  has to ask the question why it is that the United States continues to maintain an attitude of unrelenting hostility towards the authorities in Iran whatever actually happens in terms of the revolution itself.
          At this point I am going to turn away from issues of Iran per se to raise one or two questions about the nature of American policy today.
           We need to recognise the assumptions that were made in 1990 and 1991 after the war against Iraq that a new world needs to be created were wrong then and are wrong now. We also need to abandon perhaps the idea that in place of that new world order there was to be an effective re-creation of the Congress of Vienna, the idea of a concert of nations imposing their will on lesser states.
          That is also not true. And I will argue that there are growing divisions and interests between the European Union on the one had and the United States on the other of which the tensions over policy towards Iran are one very good example. Indeed tensions over policies towards Iraq are another good example of that.
          Therefore I am left with the question of why it is that the United States, which now seems to have adopted a policy of standing alone and imposing  its will in those areas it feels it should, has  adopted this particular attitude towards Iran, despite all the changes.
          I think one reason lies in the revolution itself. One tends to forget that the major foreign target of the revolution, it was not the purpose of it but it was certainly a declared target, was American influence inside Iran.
          Perhaps  one should bear in mind that when this has occurred elsewhere in the world, as in Cuba,  Vietnam and  Libya  the USA has shown itself to be remarkably unrelenting in its hostility – it can go on for decades. Think of what happened in Vietnam. Think of what is happening to Cuba.
          And in a sense the maintenance of the policy of dual containment and the isolation of Iran are simply a function of an irrationality inside American policy. The maintenance of a habit of hostility.
          It is of course rationalised in terms of a policy of opposing rogue states, terrorism and radical Islam, supporting the Middle East peace process against those who would wish to undermine it. And it is certainly true that the Iranian government does not support that process. And I can give you very good objective reasons as to why it shouldn’t.
          But the reality is that it is fundamentally an irrational response to past history. But alongside that there is something else. It is that we make a mistake if we assume that American policy is necessarily founded on established principles of American national interest in the wider world. They of course exist but they are not the sole way in which foreign policy is decided inside the United States.
          And to a large extent today American policy is not based on any rational objective evaluation of a geo-political reality,  but it is based primarily on domestic considerations governing the nature of the political process inside the United  States. I should add here that the USA is not unique in that respect. The same accusation could be made towards any state in Europe.
          It is a function of established democracies that they tend to be more concerned about their domestic political processes than about their foreign interests. And the reason for this is obvious. It is simply that you need to get re-elected. That concentrates your ,mind very much on the domestic agenda. In  the case of the USA the concentration is more acute perhaps more than anywhere else.
          Don’t forget a presidential term may be for four years. But after two every president begins to think of his re-election or the re-election of his successor. And don’t forget that there is a staggering of congressional and presidential elections so every two years there is a major electoral round.
          You don’t have much time as a politician left  to consider important foreign policy issues. They are rather remote.  They are not going to guarantee your re-election and they may mitigate against it if you back the wrong side.
          Therefore it is not surprising that foreign affairs does not receive the attention that it should in the USA or that American policy is controlled very much by domestic concerns.
          But there are in addition to this quite specific circumstances operating at present. One of them is the weakness of the Clinton presidency. That won’t surprise you. But that weakness is combined with the fact that the Clinton presidency tried to identify a completely new agenda in terms of foreign policy – not one based on geo-political interests but one based on geo-economic interests. That has come rather badly unstuck as has the president himself in recent months.
          And that has certainly  hampered the ability of the administration to make effective policy. And beyond that  quite apart from the vagaries of presidential experiences in the White House  is the fact  that the end of the Cold War produced another change inside the USA andthat was to re-eqiliberate influence between the presidency on the one hand and congress on the other.
          During the Cold War the very fact that the USA could claim an external danger which was countered by the process of nuclear weapons which were controlled by the presidency gave the presidency predominance in foreign policy formulation.
          That has now gone. And as result the weight of foreign policy decision making has drifted towards Congress. The problem with Congress,  is that it is pig ignorant. One third of congressional members at the time of the last election did not even have a passport. They were not interested  in  the outside world. They don’t know about it and they don’t care. They do know, however, that it can be used for backing up their domestic support.
          And indeed a large part of the creation of ILSA and dual containment reflected those prejudices and some of the dominant themes inside the American media about  what are in fact America’s foreign policy concerns.
          So to some extent then, Iran is the victim of that changed pattern of policy formulation inside the USA. It means that almost whatever is done by Iran or in Iran or indeed by other states will not change that perception. And it means therefore that the problem of trying to find a rational basis for relations between Iran and the  western world, particularly the USA  is  more difficult.
          And we should not underestimate the significance of that. The USA is crucially important in world affairs whether we like it or not. It is crucially important to Iran in economic terms if in no other. The EU cannot act as an alternative. It is therefore a tragedy that those tensions should continue to exist.
            I have to conclude by suggesting that although there is a disparity of interests that is growing between Europe and the USA the Iranian government whoever may be running it and whatever their fundamental ideology has an acute interest in finding ways in which it can build bridges with the USA simply to make sure that in the end a more rational vision and a more rational approach can inform American and western policy both in the Gulf and also in the context of central Asia and the caucuses.

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