The term ‘Politics of tolerance’ is usually not associated with the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’. Currently, the country is in the stronghold of radical Islamic forces and no tolerance is shown for dissidents, secularists and pluralists. While Iran has historically been a conservative society, the America backed coup-de-tat of 1953 proved to be a turning point. This coup inserted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in place of its incumbent leader Mohammed Mossadegh. The irony lies in the fact that Mossadegh was a legitimate and democratically elected leader with significant popular support. Yet he was seen as an enemy by the intelligentsia of the leading democracy in the world. The Shah was loyal to Western interests and it was institutions such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which masterminded his ascendency. Under the Shah, Iran witnessed a transformation toward modern values and a tolerant socio-political culture. But this was ended with the Islamic wave of the 1970s, which reinstated its religious leader Ayatollah Kamenei as the supreme leader. Ever since, the country has been ruled autocratically and religious/political subservience has become inevitable.
With the collapse of the British Empire at the end of the Second World War and the rise of the United States of America as a global power center, it has been exerting much influence in events in the Middle East, including Iran. This has led to political intrigue, diplomatic maneuverings and other real-politic moves in the relationship between Iran and the United States. In recent times, the relationship between the two countries has taken a downturn with the re-emergence of radical Islam in Iran. While harping and criticizing Iran’s poor tolerance toward alternative political arrangements and religious viewpoints, one should also scrutinize the standards set by the West (especially the United States). In other words, it is only fair that Iran’s intolerance is studied in comparison with the standards set by its critics. By studying declassified records from American government archives and bootleg copy of CIA’s history of its operations, we learn that its agency TPAJAX has acted intolerantly and offensively in the past. This includes its propaganda campaigns, provocative statements in the media, public demonstrations to garner support, and even its underhanded activities like bribing officials, etc. We also learn that the TPAJAX has employed agents of influence, false-flag operatives, dissident military personnel and paid protestors. Hence, while ‘Politics of tolerance’ and ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’ often do not go together, neither can the critics of Iran claim to espouse high standards of ‘tolerance’.
Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2003. 258 pages.
Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, Norton, (2005), p.358