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The Radical Legacy of 1979

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JANUARY 1, 2010, 6:30 P.M. ET

By EDWARD. P. DJEREJIAN

If ever one year in recent times was a catalyst for change in the broader Middle East and Muslim world, it was 1979. One ray of bright light in that year of darkness was the signing of the historic Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Conversely, three events had dire consequences with which we live today.

First, there was the overthrow of the shah of Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Second, there was the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by a group of Islamic extremists. And third, there was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Each event fostered the forces of radicalization with implications far beyond the region’s borders.

• Iran becomes a theocracy. Khomeini’s revolution in the early months of 1979 established the wilayat al-faqih, or rule by a Muslim cleric who became the Supreme Leader. He, in effect, formed a theocratic system in Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, and declared the new regime to be “God’s government,” warning that subsequent disobedience was a “revolt against God.” Read the rest of this entry »

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