As the leader of the Islamic Movement of the Iranian nation, Imam Khomeini (RA) had a strategy. Many leaders lack any strategy in their campaigns. As a result, their decisions become tiresome gradually. It creates ambiguity and undermines people’s confidence.
After the 15th of Khordad Uprising, Imam Khomeini (RA) defined the strategy of his movement as toppling the Shah’s regime and establishing the Islamic state. He formulated his stance and his campaign approaches based on this strategy, too. Imam Khomeini (RA) believed that the leadership of the movement should have a strategy. He argued that the leadership of the movement should adopt mottos and missions that are totally reflecting popular demands. Describing these issues as primary and essential criteria for the leadership, he emphasized, “toppling the Pahlavi Dynasty and the monarchical system and establishing the Islamic state.”
It was due to Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy that Sharif Emami’s national reconciliation government could not sidetrack the revolution. This strategy disabled General Azhari’s military government to stop the revolution and Shahpour Bakhtiar’s national coalition government to cope with the pace of the revolution. On the eve of the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Shah gave some concessions and announced his preparedness to abide by the Constitution, hold free elections, and eliminate corruption. He acknowledged that he has heard the voice of the revolution of the Iranian people. However, Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy outwitted these concessions. He used these concessions for undermining the foundations of the regime’s power. During his exile years, Imam Khomeini (RA) continued his emphasis on this strategy as a result of which it was institutionalized as a culture among the Iranian people.
Different steps of Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy was as follows:
Step One: the first step of Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy was the downfall of the Shah’s regime. The Shah’s exit from the country was the first phase of this step. He summarized this phase of his strategy in the simple slogan of “The Shah should go” and insisted on this slogan up to the end of his campaign. Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy gave an impetus to people’s demonstrations and strikes and encouraged them to make sacrifices for their cause. It also relieved the revolution from inertia and lethargy. Imam Khomeini (RA)’s strategy enhanced people’s confidence in his leadership. Undermining the Shah’s self-confidence was the most important segment of this strategy. Imam Khomeini (RA) had appropriately realized that autocratic systems are based on one specific central point and if this central point is assailed, the whole system will be disintegrated.
Based on this interpretation, Imam Khomeini (RA) concentrated his attacks on the Shah. Since the beginning of the movement up to the victory of the Islamic Revolution, he introduced the Shah as the source of all maladies of the country. He encouraged the people to emphasize the necessity of toppling the Shah’s regime and the monarchical system. Concentrating his efforts on the removal of the Shah from power, Imam Khomeini (RA) said: “This treacherous person should be deposed.” In order to support the theoretical foundation of his theory of “the Shah should go”, he referred to people’s slogans against the regime and said: “Every Iranian, from the small children to the old men and women, are chanting Death to the Shah and Death to this monarchy. It is an uprising of the whole nation. It is a referendum that reveals the ineligibility of the Shah’s monarchy.”
As a result of Imam Khomeini (RA)’s persistence on the necessity of toppling the Shah’s regime, foreign observers considered him as the symbol of confrontation with the Shah. The Guardian described Imam Khomeini (RA) as “the symbol of the determination of the Iranian nation for getting rid of the Shah and the establishment of which the Shah was the sole representative.” Le Figaro wrote: “Ayatollah Khomeini’s name is a symbol of oppositions towards the Shah.” Some authors argue that Imam Khomeini (RA)’s antagonism towards the Shah was rooted in the monarch’s misbehavior towards the leadership of Islamic movement. However, Imam Khomeini (RA) had repeatedly pointed out: “I have no personal hostility with the Shah. Overthrowing the Shah is my Islamic responsibility.”
Step Two: Imam Khomeini (RA) considered the toppling of the Shah’s regime as an introduction to the establishment of the Islamic state. As a matter of fact, the establishment of the Islamic state was his ultimate objective. He argued: “The establishment of an Islamic state or government is our favorite objective.” However, he added, “overthrowing this autocratic and despotic regime is our major priority at the moment.”
Imam Khomeini (RA) believed that without an Islamic state, the Iranian nation will be deprived of independence, freedom, lawfulness, growth, democracy, participation, and free elections. He argued that the Shah’s regime and the monarchical system are basically corrupt and, therefore, not susceptible to any kind of reform. When the Islamic resistance was approaching its climax, Imam Khomeini (RA) was largely focused on elaborating on the basis, structure, and essence of the Islamic state.
Reference: “An Introduction to Islamic Revolution in Iran”؛ The center for Islamic Revolution Documents