Daily Telegraph executive foreign editor Coughlin (American Ally: Tony Blair and the War on Terror, 2006, etc.) reports on the causes and effects of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
The pivotal figure in the Revolution was Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, who returned to Tehran from a 15-year exile in Turkey, Iraq and France and galvanized a groundswell of dissatisfaction against the ruling Pahlavi dynasty. However, the populace did not fully comprehend the ayatollah’s intended agenda, which was the establishment of a theocracy based on Sharia (Islamic law). Coughlin emphasizes Khomeini’s careful concealment of the full thrust of his “religious dictatorship.” Within the first two weeks of taking power, Khomeini and his aides formed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which safeguarded internal affairs and effectively exported the revolution abroad. Coughlin asserts that Khomeini would “steal the revolution from beneath the noses of the very people who had brought him to power.” The ayatollah’s rise to prominence forms the bulk of this thorough work. Born in 1902 in the remote provinces, Ruhollah Musavi—ayatollahs took their hometown as their name—grew up in a time of enormous turbulence between the shah, controlled by foreign interests, and the constitutionalists. He demonstrated early promise as a student and jurist of Shia Islam, and was deeply resistant to the shah’s forced program of modernization. During his years as a teacher, Khomeini built his reputation as an Islamic authority and scholar. Coughlin skillfully traces Khomeini’s iron tentacles manipulating the disastrous war with Iraq, the establishment of the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon (which aided the emergence of Hizbollah) and the development of an international terrorist network. The author also pursues his haunting shadow over the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the proliferation of Iran’s nuclear program.
A valuable study of three decades of a defiant radical Islamic regime.