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June 18, 2006
Ayatollah's Grandson Wants US To Invade Iran

This apple apparently fell far from the tree. Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeini that overthrew the Shah and established the first Islamic Republic in Southwest Asia, wants the US to invade Iran in order to establish a representative democracy to replace the mullahcracy his grandfather established:

The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the inspiration of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, has broken a three-year silence to back the United States military to overthrow the country's clerical regime.

Hossein Khomeini's call is all the more startling as he made it from Qom, the spiritual home of Iran's Shia strand of Islam, during an interview to mark the 17th anniversary of the ayatollah's death.

"My grandfather's revolution has devoured its children and has strayed from its course," he told Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language television station. "I lived through the revolution and it called for freedom and democracy - but it has persecuted its leaders."

He also made clear his opposition to Teheran's alleged development of a secret nuclear weapons programme. "Iran will gain real power if freedom and democracy develop there," he said. "Strength will not be obtained through weapons and the bomb." ...

"As for his call to President Bush to come and occupy Iran, Hossein Khomeini explained that 'freedom must come to Iran in any possible way, whether through internal or external developments.

If you were a prisoner, what would you do? I want someone to break the prison [doors open]'."

Khomeini's statement has to serve as an embarrassment for the mullahs in Teheran, especially coming from the heart of the Islamist revolution, Qom. Shi'a scholarship has two schools, one in Qom and the other in Najaf, and they give two very different versions of Shi'ite thought. Najaf, where Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani presides, teaches a 'quiet' and more spiritual version of Shi'a, one in which theology and temporal issues are kept more separate. This has helped the Coalition establish the representative democracy in Iraq, as Sistani has consistently endorsed that approach as most beneficial to the Shi'ite majority while allowing the Sunni an outlet for their own political issues.

In Qom, however, the Shi'a philosophy ties spiritual and temporal issues tightly together and produces the Islamist response that created the Taliban and other totalitarian impulses in Islam. Ruhollah Khomeini crafted the Islamic revolution using Qomian philosophy and put it into practice after the Shah's fall. Qom usually recognizes Islam as the only basis for temporal government.

That makes the younger Khomeini's statement even more surprising. It also seems rather surprising that the ruling Guardian Council would have allowed Al-Arabiya to interview him from Qom, and that they have not locked him up after making his bold pronouncement. No one really knows how much influence Khomeini has with the Iranians, but his lineage certainly attracts interest in his opinions.

In any event, the US will not invade Iran, not now and certainly not at the invitation of Khomeini. The US would much prefer that the Iranians rise up on their own to overthrow the mullahcracy, and more signs appear to point to that end with news of domestic unrest increasing in recent months. The populace has not taken well to the strict imposition of Islamist practice; the Iranians had been among the more cosmopolitan of Muslim nations before 1979 and that tradition has not dissipated in a burst of religious fervor. The younger generation has especially chafed at the restrictive climate inside Iran, and as the students once followed the Ayatollah into the streets of Teheran, this generation of students may well end up liberating Teheran once again. An American military invasion would only serve to discredit such activists as Western pawns, and the US knows that could set back an Iranian correction for another generation.

The grandson of the Ayatollah will have to focus his energies on his own people. Perhaps if that message started coming consistently out of Qom, the Iranians might finally push themselves into tossing out the autocratic government that has threatened a nuclear disaster with the West.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 18, 2006 12:22 PM

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Tracked on June 18, 2006 3:21 PM


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