On a recent trip to Iran, Ben Barber of the Washington Times discovered that many Iranians look back fondly on "the days before the 1979 Islamic Revolution when the United States was a close ally and thousands of Americans lived and worked in Iran, training the army, maintaining the air force, pumping oil, building roads, or advising the government." He reports that "Iran is in great flux these days -- the clerical regime that swept Shah Reza Pahlavi into the dustbin of history in 1979 was replaced by the Islamic revolutionary regime founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Because the pro-Western shah was admitted into the United States by President Carter for cancer treatment, militant Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy and humiliated Carter for more than a year by holding American diplomats, Marine guards, and other Americans hostage until the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1980," Barber recalls. "Now Iranians are fed up with the clerics," he contends. "They want greater social freedom, a free press, freedom to question the religious leadership, and a piece of the economic pie, which is tightly controlled by the clerics and their allies."
In a recent issue of The American Legion Magazine, Barber reports that "Iranians are also tired of being isolated internationally, feared as terrorists around the world. But this image is difficult to erase because Iran has sponsored terrorist killings of its opponents in Germany and France," he comments. "Iran also arms the Shiite minority of Pakistan; it backs the Persian-speaking rebels in Afghanistan; it supports Islamic revolutionaries in Turkey and Azerbaijan, and it arms terrorist groups, such as the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza, paying supplements to the families of suicide bombers based on the number of Jews they kill."
Barber laments that Iran is "isolated from the West, guided by leaders who believe every other religion is wrong and evil. The revolutionary govern- ment is dedicated to spreading its own Shiite Muslim faith," he remarks. "Because most of the world's one billion Muslims follow the Sunni branch of Islam, Iran is even more isolated from other Muslims. But the country's greatest enemy is the secular West," Barber warns, "and Iran has been searching for ways to obtain weapons of mass destruction to keep the West out of the Near East, which it hopes to dom- inate. The United States has focused on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990," he empha- sizes. "But all the while Iran has been busy striving to acquire missiles and nuclear weapons."
Barber does see cause for cautious optimism in the desire of the Iranian people for greater freedom. "Many Iranians believe a new revolution will soon explode in their country, so great is the pent-up desire for change," he confides. "However, for the moment, the hard-liners control all the levers of power and guide the ancient country toward a future of zealotry, anti-Americanism, and nuclear weapons."