>> 11 May 2013
“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke
I believe it's very important, not only to read history, but also to ask yourself what would have happened if historic characters made different choices than the ones they did. This is one of the most important tools of learning politics, and practicing it in a model way.
One of the interesting incidents in middle-east history, which we usually like to refer to, is the Iranian revolution in 1979. And the most interesting part of it is that no one realizes that the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, literally chose every small thing happened to him. Historians like to refer to the Shah as a week leader, who had to flee his country running away from execution. But very few realize that he made a choice, and his choice was fatal, and he paid the price of his fatal choice.
Pahlavi chose to westernize his country, to adopt the European fashions instead of the traditional ones, and to open his country to western culture and civilization. Pahlavi chose also to have good relations with Israel. Until 1979, Iran was the only middle-eastern country which recognized Israel, had full ties with it, and didn't expel its Jews as other Middle Eastern countries. And as Iran has lots of oil, Pahlavi chose to favor American and European oil companies, and kept a far distance from the Soviet Union and all the enemies of the west.
In return to that, Europe hosted Khomeini and gave him an impact through its state-funded media. It was said that Pahlavi complained to UK because the BBC used to host Khomeini three times a week. And when the revolution started, all western countries sold him in a moment, and started normal relation with his enemies. Israel did nothing for him, nothing. Only Egypt received him in the first moment, and Sadat paid his life for this decision. Even Reagan exported weapons to Khomeini, just few months after the revolution, through Israel. In the end USA gave Pahlavi a retirement in its land, and of course he can't complain, as opening his mouth in this case will make USA send him with his family back to Iran to be executed in public.
But we don't realize that Pahlavi had other options which he could have done, and he chose consciously not to do, even knowing that if he chose one of them he would have been in power with his family till today.
Simply, Pahlavi could have done exactly what Khomeini did later. He could have boycotted Israel, adopted Anti-Semitic speech, and did like every middle-eastern leader instrumenting the Palestinian cause to distract his citizens from their actual problems. He could has taken American diplomats hostages, and traded them for the silence of the western countries. He could made extreme human rights violations, and executed over 100 thousands of his opposition, knowing that no one in the international society will care, exactly like no one cared when Khomeini did these things later. He could have tried to obtain nuclear weapons and threat to take the Persian Gulf back, destroy Israel, and nuke Paris and Berlin. If he did so, he would had been in power tell today, and would had a Nobel peace prize laureate like ElBaradei to defend Iran's sovereignty, and maybe he would have been nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize himself, just like Adolf Hitler in 1939.
But this wasn't the only solution in the Shah’s hands. He also had the choice to join the eastern bloc. He could have invented his own model of socialism, paint everything with red, write his own book like Stalin, Mao, and Qaddafi, gave more opportunities to the Soviet Union, and execute all the religious guys who were annoying him. If he did so, he would had the Russians fighting for him tell now, as they are doing for Assad today, and as the Chinese are doing for the North Korean dictatorship.
The Shah wasn't weak; he just has the wrong allies. He committed the un-forgiven sin of being on the wrong side. He hanged out with people who don't appreciate friendships or ideologies, just pragmatic interests. Pahlavi fell, just because he chose to be our ally, not our enemy. If he was our enemy, he would have been the Shah of Iran till today. I’m here not denying that he was corrupt, and that he is responsible for the crimes made under his role. I’m just saying that he could have been more corrupt, and could have done more human rights violations, and still remain in power, if he had different allies.
Why I'm thinking in that? Just because the Pew Research Center has published its recent study, saying that 29% of Muslims in Egypt find suicide bombing justified. And knowing that nearly 10% of Egyptians are Christians, we reach a conclusion that only 20% of Egyptian voters consider the Palestinian Terrorism a "resistance". This will include Islamists, Nationalists, and the radical left. But the crisis is that western countries don't see in Egypt except these 20%. These 20% are the ones receiving all of the international attention and support. They are the ones receiving the USA Aid and the EU funds. They are the ones honored in international ceremonies, and get the most famous prizes. They are the ones who meet Mr. Obama, get honored by Michelle Obama, and admired by the European Parliament. They are the ones who are considered credible resources for the international human rights organizations.
Actually, the weakness of Egyptian Liberals isn't more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. After the revolution, Europe and USA thought that Islamists are strong, and Liberals are week, so they decided to buy Islamists. Huge amount of funds and politic support started moving from USA and EU to Islamists in Egypt. Even Israel used all its diplomacy trying to build contacts with Islamists, and ignored the other actors in the game. Islamists used this support to reach power in July 2012. Mohammed Hussein Heikal, an Egyptian writer who has been close to the Egyptian dictatorship all over his life, described the American pressure on the army to deliver power to Islamists, as 1942 incident in which the British troops surrounded the Egyptian king's palace to force him to change the government.
We Egyptian liberals committed also the Shah's greatest sin when we considered Europe, USA, and Israel as allies. An ally is someone who actually supports you as much as you support him, which never happened with our so-called allies. Now we are paying for this mistake in our exile, and those we considered allies are paying also from their security.