Imam Khomeini expressed himself in clear and honest terms in private meetings with other anti-Pahlavi groups about their policies and struggles. But at the same time he always recommended that his followers refrain from highlighting such differences.
Iranian journalist and expert Abbas Salimi Namin has disproved the claims and opinions of Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman in the book ‘The Secret War with Iran’. ‘The Secret War with Iran’, written by renowned Zionist journalist Ronen Bergman, was published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster publishing company in the United States.
Born in 1972, Bergman is a graduate of Tel Aviv University in the Middle East political relations. He is a famous Zionist journalist and analyst in the military and security fields who has worked with Israeli newspapers ‘Haaretz’ and ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’, American dailies and weeklies such as ‘The New York Times’, ‘Newsweek’, ‘The Wall street Journal’, and British media groups including ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Times’.
Bergman has been interested in topics relating to the enemies of the Zionist regime (particularly Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance groups), as well as subjects on the history of the Israeli regime’s assassination operations, which are cited in his recent book ‘Rise and Kill First’.
In an interview with Persian TV channel ‘Iran International’, Bergman has pointed to the Iranian nuclear program and the issues surrounding it -particularly the Zionist regime’s secret attempts to halt the process of nuclear activities in Iran and assassinate Iranian scientists. He has also cited ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden as saying that the assassination of nuclear scientists is the best way to impede Iran’s growing process in that field, and has implicitly held Israel responsible for it.
In the book ‘The Secret War with Iran’, Bergman has written a history of encounters between Iran and the Zionist regime, while the bulk of the book relates to the Lebanese Hezbollah -Iran’s main ally in the battle against the Zionist regime since its formation until the 33-day War- focusing on the role of Martyr Imad Mughniyeh.
His book also includes sections about the final years of the Pahlavi regime and victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, short periods of the war imposed by the Ba’thist party of Iraq on Iran (focusing on the McFarlane affair), Iran’s role in supporting the Palestinian groups, and the Iranian nuclear program.
Bergman’s multiple undocumented and untrue comments as well as personal and purposeful analyses (with the main purpose of displaying Israel’s power, specially in a competition with the US) that have repeatedly come in his book make a critical review of the book necessary for Iranian readers.
Director of the Iran History Studies and Compilation Bureau, Abbas Salimi Namin, has written an extensive criticism in a book about ‘The Secret War with Iran’. Born in 1954, Salimi Namin is an experienced journalist and a renowned Iranian researcher in history and political sciences who has published many articles and books.
In this passage, in a stark contrast with himself, the author first acknowledges that Israel was seeking to harm the Islamic Revolution in Iran since its triumph. Second, he implicitly acknowledges Israel’s involvement in inciting Arab governments hostile to developments in Iran, including the Baath party of Iraq. Third, Imam Khomeini brought to victory Iran’s nationwide uprising, creating an unprecedented obstacle in the way of the Zionists’ attempts to dominate the Muslim world.
This fact implies that as much as nations have become resentful of Zionist-leaning regional Arab leaders they have become interested in the developments created by the Islamic Revolution and its leadership. Therefore, it is not unreasonable if Bergman seeks in vain to sully the squeaky clean image and character of Imam Khomeini.
“Khomeini’s next step was to shatter the most important traditional custom of Shi’ite theology. He allowed the believers, even encouraged them, to call him ‘Imam’. This title had been reserved by the Iranian Shias for Ali and the eleven leaders who came after him. Until the inevitable return of the missing thirteenth imam at some unpredictable time, no religious sage had had the right to use the title. Without stating it explicitly, Khomeini was creating the impression that he was the missing imam, who had returned as a messiah, or Mahdi.” (p. 12)
Without presenting any reason, the author portrays the founder of the Islamic Revolution totally different from his real character. First and foremost, Ayatollah Khomeini never and under no circumstances showed willingness to be referred to as “Imam” and he was totally strange with such things. Second, the title “imam”, meaning leader and harbinger, has been common in the history of Islam (among both Shias and Sunnis) and is not reserved to the 12 infallible Shia imams. Imam Ghazali, Imam Bukhari and Imam Musa Sadr are just cases in point that the author has preferred to not note. Third, such outdated and threadbare allegations stem from Savak before the Islamic Revolution, which were never accepted by people. Has the author bothered himself studying slogans chanted by several million people who welcomed Ayatollah Khomeini? The answer is negative.
“During the 1970s he became, from afar, one of the most powerful of the Shah’s opponents. This physically weak, stern-featured seventy-seven-year-old, after a brief sojourn as an exile in Paris from September 1978, returned to his homeland on February 1, 1979. He was received by millions at Tehran’s airport, and without any weapons, defeated the sixth strongest army in the world.” (p. 12)
How did the millions who attended the welcoming ceremony refer to Ayatollah Khamenei? Wasn’t this devotion and deep-seated belief born out of his reputation for honesty and piety? Could anyone claim to be Mahdi and the public then recognize him as their spiritual leader? Shia hadiths have clearly noted that even if someone claims to have ties with the 12th imam as long as Imam Mahdi remains occult, he has to be billed as liar. Therefore, people’s ties with Imam Khomeini during nearly two decades of costly struggle stemmed from this assessment he was moving in the way of revival of dignity in this land, far from any mundane passion, but the performance of other opponents of the Pahlavi dictatorship during that time was assessed as exactly contrary. Bergman has deliberately ignored this field experience and instead he tries to attribute the failure of other political leaders in attracting people to Imam Khomeini.
“The elderly cleric realized that he would never be able to take power without the help of certain opposition groups, some of which were ideologically opposed to him. With the Shah as their common enemy, however, he entered into pacts with all of the rivals of the monarchy, playing down the vast differences among them. The Shi’ites have a name for this technique: khod’e, which means tricking someone into misjudging his position.” (p. 14)
Imam Khomeini expressed himself in clear and honest terms in private meetings with other anti-Pahlavi groups about their policies and struggles. But at the same time he always recommended that his followers refrain from highlighting such differences. He believed that the main issue in Iranian society was to bring an end to the ruling dictatorship and the US, British and Israeli dominance. Ayatollah Khomeini believed that any political current has to follow its own methodology and that such differences of view should not eclipse the main enemy, i.e. dictatorship and dominance. Without taking into account this reasonable and principled policy of the Imam, Bergman puts it:
“As for the opposition movement closest to his ideology, the Mujahideen Khalq, he (Khomeini) promised the group a share of power when he got his hands on it. It was a promise he would fail to keep.” (p. 15)
A review of exchanged words between the Imam and the representative of Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) in Najaf in 1972 shows the nullity of Bergman’s allegations. In those meetings, which were held for hours during different days, the Imam never endorsed MKO and he even warned that the armed struggle policy they had adopted was doomed to failure.
Hossein Rouhani, an MKO leader, said in an interview following the victory of the Islamic Revolution: “From within, I [along with Torab Haqshenas] was advised to contact the Imam to tell him about MKO’s affairs and internal issues so that the Imam would issue a statement, if possible, in support of death-row prisoners, i.e. our combatant leaders. I accepted to handle it. I contacted Mr. Mahmoud Doaei who was our sympathizer at that time. In 1972 I managed to have numerous meetings with the Imam. Except for the first session where he (Mr. Doaei) was present to introduce me, I was alone in future meetings which total 7. They lasted about one month. Each meeting was one hour to one hour and a half. I discussed various issues with the Imam. We discussed the politico-ideological fundamentals of MKO. I had two books on me: Imam Hussein and The Prophets’ Route. I gave him both and he studied them completely and shared his written views with us. One issue was our analysis of Judgment Day. He considered our analysis as material and in conflict with what is in the Quran. The other issue was ‘evolution’. We believed in the Darwin principle of evolution, but he considered it to contradict Quranic instructions. Another issue under discussion was ‘armed struggle’ in Iran…The Imam was firmly opposed to it, saying:
‘I’m opposed to armed struggle and I believe that it would destroy your organization.’
Of course, it was the issue whose truth we saw in 1977 and 1978 in the intra-organizational ideological struggles in our splinter groups.” (MKO, From Beginning to End, Institute for Political Studies and Research, Winter 2005, vol. 1, pp. 522-523)
The Imam did not make public what he had noted in the private meeting with the MKO representative up until after the nationwide revolt of the Iranian nation in 1979. But his prediction, as confirmed by Hossein Rouhani, came true and in the second half of 1970s, MKO was disbanded and only some of its members were seen in prisons. However, under the auspices of the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of the Imam from 1978 until the victory of the revolt in 1979, MKO prisoners were released and the organization was revived. Therefore, it is not clear which Imam-MKO agreement Bergman refers to. No MKO agent has ever expressed this allegation of Bergman, which has no solid basis. Meantime, after the meeting between MKO’s senior member and the Imam in Najaf, no other such meeting has been recorded until after the Islamic Revolution as the Imam rejected MKO’s theoretical fundamentals and cast doubt on the organization’s strategy and tactic. In light of its dogmatism, this group never spoke publicly against the Imam as people massively showed willingness for the Imam’s leadership, but in private meetings they missed no chance to discredit him.
But Bergman is trying to create the impression that before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini was seeking to rally political groups behind himself on false promises. But the undeniable truth is that leaders of various groups who travelled to Paris saw that the Imam stuck strongly with his principles. For instance, Dr. Sanjabi, leader of the National Front, received no promise in return for aligning himself with the Islamic Revolution; rather, he was presented with some preconditions. In an interview in Paris, Dr. Sanjabi openly declared the Pahlavi regime illegitimate and laid emphasis on the dismissal of foreign dominance as another pillar of the Islamic Revolution. The same procedure befell to Mehdi Bazargan. The leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran sought in vain to convince the Leader of the Islamic Revolution to modify his position on these two pillars. Bazargan received no concessions. Finally, the FMI leadership either genuinely or tactically agreed with the two pillars. Therefore, what caused other political leaders to get closer to the Imam was his outspokenness and sincerity in declaring his positions and his firm and brave resistance against dictatorship and dominance. That is exactly for this reason that various social classes distanced themselves from other political leaders and accepted the Imam’s leadership. If he had had minimum trickery, he would have been marginalized like many others. Of course, it has to be noted that playing tricks on the enemy would be a reasonable act. In wars, one way of defeating the enemy is to deceive it. In other words, applying misleading schemes so that the enemy could not predict the attack is among skills of a qualified commander and manager.
Link to previous parts:
Part0, Part 1, Part2, Part3, Part4, Part5, Part6
Abbas Salimi Namin,