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1979: Annus Horribilis—Modern Jihad Goes Global


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1979-annus-horribilis-modern-jihad-goes-globalWashington Free Beacon:

Sebastian Gorka

April 9, 2016


Three momentous events mark 1979 as the year in which modern jihad, having evolved over the course of the century, emerged as a global movement: the establishment of a theocratic regime in Iran, the siege of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While the conditions for an Islamist explosion had existed for a long time, these events were the spark.


On April 1, 1979, following the overthrow of the shah and the return of the fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France, the Shiite populace of Iran voted in a national referendum to become an Islamic republic. A new constitution outlined the central role of divine revelation in determining Iran’s laws, which would be based on the Koran and the Sunnah, the traditions of Islam. Then on November 4, a crowd of student protesters who were loyal to Khomeini and committed to taking their revolution to the “great Satan,” America, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans hostage. Most of them would remain in captivity until the day Ronald Reagan took Jimmy Carter’s place in the White House. Focused on rescuing their imprisoned countrymen, Americans had a poor understanding of the broader picture in Iran. The elderly Khomeini was not seen as a serious alternative to the royal Pahlavi family, who were friendly to the United States. But the revolutionary cleric and his new guard of religious fanatics were able to exploit the ancient Persian reserves of pride and resilience, quickly imposing a Shia version of theocracy in which Islam and politics were totally reintegrated. The mullahs of Tehran became the center of political as well as religious power in Tehran.




Twelve days after the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, about three hundred armed Islamists, inexperienced and ill- equipped, seized control of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam and the equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These men were interested in a holy war not against infidel Christians or Jews but against their fellow Muslims. Led by a man who would later declare himself the long-awaited mahdi—just as Mohammed Ahmad had done years before in Khartoum—these jihadists invoked the principle of takfirism to declare any Muslim who disagreed with them an apostate, a false Muslim, starting with the royal family, the house of Saud, whom they saw as puppets of the infidel West. Their war was first with their fellow Muslims who had fallen away from the path of purity. The militants managed to hold the Grand Mosque for almost two weeks, a stunning accomplishment. But it was only after the siege was finally broken and most of the jihadists killed—with the covert assistance of French commandos—that the implications of this jihadi attack and the breadth of the conspiracy became clear.


In his definitive account, The Siege of Mecca, Yaroslav Trofimov reports that the attackers were not simply a collection of embittered loners or isolated fundamentalists..................................




The third pivotal event of 1979 was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24. The Marxist government of Afghanistan, a Muslim nation, was battling an internal threat from indigenous fundamentalist groups. Afghans had become increasingly discontent with the regime’s socialist reforms, and by December 1979 ancient clans and tribes of skilled warriors were attacking government institutions and assets. Having signed a treaty of friendship with the Afghan regime the year before, the Soviet Union decided it was time to step in and assist its “ally.” Thirty thousand troops rolled in on Christmas Eve, a number that would grow to a hundred thousand.


While the upheavals in Iran and Saudi Arabia had an important psychological effect on future jihadists, the conflict in Afghanistan had the most direct influence on modern jihad.......................................(Snip)




Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War


The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine

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