Throughout the 1,400-year history of Islamic caliphates, a recurring theme has been the pursuit of power and wealth; often at the expense of ethics, spirituality and justice. The quest for dominance superseded any genuine religious sanctity.
When the Ottoman caliphate came to an end in 1924, it seemed that this era had ended. In 1979, however, a new and bitter chapter began with the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic-Marxist revolt unleashed chaos, misery, destruction and the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a global threat.
In the chronicles of Islamic history, we find a long list of caliphs, totaling 144 emirs or “commanders of the faithful” — the supreme leaders of the Islamic community.
Throughout their reigns, the caliphs used the sword and the mosque as the sources of their power.
They employed various means, including charity, economics, health care, education and lobbying in order to further their interests. Fratricide and matricide were not uncommon; nor were corruption, deception and brutal internal conflicts.
In many ways, Khomeini and his successor as ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei resemble these past caliphs. Their ambition to rule an Islamic empire has led Iran down a path of decline and chaos. Their regime has been marked by mercilessness, criminality and bloodshed; all under the guise of sanctity and spirituality.
It is regrettable that the world only belatedly awakened to this threat. Khomeini wrote his manifesto “Velayat-e Faqih” in 1969, which should have sounded immediate alarm bells. Having ignored it, however, the world failed to understand the gravity of the 1979 revolt. The CIA, which had no knowledge of Khomeini’s extremist writings, ignored the threat the Islamic Republic posed to American interests in the Middle East.
President Jimmy Carter’s indifference to the fall of the late Shah of Iran and Carter’s misplaced trust in Khomeini were critical factors in the 1979 catastrophe. Instead of opposing Khomeini, Carter sought friendship and an alliance with him, ignoring Khomeini’s blatant savagery. As a result, the world witnessed a murderous terrorist rise to power while America turned a blind eye.
Carter’s welcome of Khomeini began a dark era, one in which a mullah assumed the mantle of Islam. Today, Khamenei follows in his predecessor’s footsteps, considering himself the sole “champion” of Islam. He is only the latest in the long line of more than 144 fake “commanders of the faithful” who have emerged over the course of Islamic history, perpetuating a cycle of violence and deception.
Indeed, Khomeini’s purpose, as evidenced in his writings, was to plunge the world into crisis in order to spread his destructive ideology around the globe. Khamenei continues this legacy, fanning the flames of conflict and holding Iran and the Middle East hostage.
The 1979 disaster in Iran birthed a genocidal sect of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. It is time for America and the civilized world to address this threat. Just as communism and apartheid were relegated to history, it is imperative to consign Islamic terrorism to the annals of the past.
Erfan Fard is a counter-terrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, D.C.