The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has hailed the birth of a “second phase” of Iran’s Islamic Revolution two days on from its 40th anniversary, calling on Iranians to confront the revolution’s enemies, and for the country’s youth to continue its legacy. He also said the problem of the media had to be addressed, singling out media he regarded as being hostile toward the country’s revolutionary principles.
The proclamations were published on February 13 — though the announcement was backdated by two days to coincide with the February 11 anniversary. Prior to the publication of the message, the official Islamic Republic News Agency had promised a “strategic” message from the Leader to Iranians to mark the 40th celebrations.
But the Leader’s words come amid a climate of frustration and anger, as protests continue across the country in response to a failing economy, hyperinflation, and what many regard as the regime’s failure to help its own citizens.
In a long message characteristic of the Leader, Khamenei praised the “auspicious revolution of the Iranian nation —which is the greatest and most popular revolution of the contemporary era — is the sole revolution that has persisted 40 years of pride, saved from betrayal to its values, and it has preserved its dignity and original slogans against all the temptations which seemed irresistible ... Hence, it now enters the second phase of self-development, society-processing and civilization-building.”
He appeared to suggest the republic was willing to acknowledge its flaws, although the flowery nature of his language meant the Leader’s message was in keeping with his customary tone of grandeur and superiority, and persistent with his denial that the regime had really done anything wrong. “The Islamic revolution — like a living and unwavering phenomenon — is always flexible and ready to correct its mistakes, but it is not revisionary or passive. It is positively sensitive to criticisms. It regards them as a divine blessing as well as a warning to those who do not act upon their words. Yet, by no means, it takes distance from its values, which are blended with the religious faith of the people, thanks be to God.”
Mighty but “Merciful”?
In his message, which was published widely by Iranian news outlets, Ayatollah Khamenei described the Islamic Revolution as “mighty but merciful and forgiving.” He continued: “Since its inception, this revolution has never been merciless nor has it ever shed blood. It has neither been passive nor hesitant. Standing assertively and courageously against bullies and thugs, it has defended the oppressed. This revolutionary bravery and gallantry, this honesty, assertiveness, and sovereignty, this global and regional realm of action in support of the oppressed of the world represent a source of pride for Iran and the Iranians, and may it persist eternally!”
But this glowing praise of the “merciful” nature of the Islamic Revolution ignores history. Although there are many examples of a clear absence of mercy, one in particular stands out: the summer of 1988, when thousands of political prisoners were executed secretly on orders from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. The dead were buried in mass, unmarked graves and many of the families still have no information about how their loved ones were killed or where they are buried. Ayatollah Khamenei has been the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic for three decades of the last 40 years, and has overseen the persecution, unjust imprisonment, torture and murder of many of the country’s citizens.
In his push for the revolution’s “second phase,” Khamenei addressed young Iranians, giving them advice on science and research, spirituality and morality, economy, justice, the fight against corruption, independence and freedom, national dignity, lifestyle, and foreign relations — as well as urging them to stand up to the country’s enemies.
On science, Khamenei appealed to young Iranians to rally for a “scientific jihad”: “ The foundation stone of a scientific revolution in the country has been laid, and this revolution has offered martyrs, including the martyred nuclear scientists. Rise up to defeat the malicious, spiteful enemy who strongly fears your scientific jihad,” he urged.
When it came to spirituality and morality, Khamenei condemned the role of the hostile media. “Advanced and pervasive means of communication have provided centers of anti-spirituality and anti-morality with a very dangerous facility, and now we are witnessing the enemies’ ever-increasing assault on the pure hearts of the youth, teenagers, and even children by employing these means. Liable government entities have great responsibilities in this regard that have to be taken up wisely and thoroughly responsibly. Of course, this does not mean that non-governmental individuals and organizations have no responsibility. God willing, in the era ahead, overwhelming short and medium-term plans need to be devised and implemented about this matter.”
Solutions for the Economy
Iran continues to be rocked by hyperinflation and the economy is in a nosedive. For over a year now, workers, farmers, teachers and other Iranians have held big rallies in many cities to protest against the economic conditions. In some cases, they have shouted chants including “Let go of Syria and do something for us” and “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon; my life for Iran.” People have been asking the regime to change its ways and take notice of its own citizens.
In Khamenei’s view, the biggest problem of the Iranian economy is its over-reliance on oil. He maintains that a “resistance economy” is the best way to cure this dependence. He also said that not all of Iran’s economic problems were the result of sanctions: “The beloved young individuals across the nation should know that all solutions lie within the country. Assuming that ‘economic problems are merely the result of sanctions and sanctions are because of resistance against imperialism and not submitting to the enemy, so the solution is to kneel before the enemy and kiss the wolf’s paw’ is an unforgivable mistake. This completely false analysis— although sometimes emitted from the mouths and pens of some ignorant individuals inside the country— has its roots in foreign think tanks and conspirers who intend to induce them in policy makers, decision makers, and the general public inside the country.”
Corruption Not That Bad (But the US is Awful)
Khamenei’s views on justice and corruption reveal his tendency to try to have it both ways: “Of course, the proportion of corrupt individuals among the officials of the Islamic Republic is much smaller than that of many other countries, and particularly to that of the Pahlavi regime — which was totally corrupt and encouraged corruption — and thanks be to God, the agents of this system have mostly stayed clean from it. However, even the slightest corruption is unacceptable.” But he added:“What has been done until now stands at a huge distance from what must have been done.”
On national dignity, Khamenei once again warned against investing any trust in the United States. “In the case of the United States, no problem with them is seen to be resolved, and any negotiation with the US will have no outcome but material and spiritual harms.” And it is not only the US that is not to be trusted: “Today, the Iranian nation, in addition to the criminal regime of the United States, regards a number of European governments as deceiving and unreliable. The Islamic Republic of Iran must prudently observe its boundaries with them. It must not retreat from its revolutionary and national values. It must not be scared by their void threats.”
The Supreme Leader ended his advice to young Iranians by urging them to avoid a western lifestyle — advice he never tires of repeating: “There are many necessary points to make in this regard. I will leave it to another opportunity, and I suffice to mention that, the West's attempts to promote the Western lifestyle in Iran has caused a lot of irreversible moral, economic, religious and political detriments to our country and our nation. Countering them requires a comprehensive and intelligent jihad that again you, the young individuals, are expected to carry out.”
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Why the Supreme Leader Banned Direct Talks with the US, August 14, 2018
Does Khamenei’s Apology for “Injustice” Mean Anything?, February 19, 2018
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