By Barry Rubin
OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!–Oh! times,
In which the meager, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
–William Wordsworth, Poem on the French Revolution, 1789
A decent but very leftist British Middle East expert once described for me his experience in Iran in 1979. As a leftist, he had discounted any idea that Islamists might take over the country before the revolution, dismissing them as insignificant. But then he supported the revolution against the “reactionary, pro-Western” shah.
He had many friends among Iranian leftists. Quickly, he went to Tehran and scheduled meetings at the leftist newspaper established after the revolution. The newspaper was named with the Persian word for dawn, recalling–intentionally or not I have no idea–the words of another revolutionary romantic quoted above.