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I first went to Iran in 1973 as a young reporter. The fourth modern Mideast war had just erupted and fury engulfed other parts of the region. As I wrote home at the time, Iran was then a place that seemed to make sense. In a part of the world where people were so filled with hate for one another — and so often for the West as well — Iran was one of the few comfortable places for foreigners….
Indeed, we were everywhere in Iran — advising its government officials, training its military, building its oil rigs, teaching in its schools and peddling our cars, language, fashions, industrial products and culture.
My memories of that visit are still strong. I stayed at the new Hilton Hotel, where a recent Miss Iran pageant had selected a candidate for the Miss Universe contest. I swam in the pool. I borrowed a racket and played tennis on the hotel courts. I also had a drink in the hotel bar with an uncle from the University of California who was among some 40,000 Americans working in Tehran at the time….
Iran was then an openly inviting place for an American woman. I felt as relaxed about traveling throughout the country as I did in Europe. I could go most places, do virtually anything, talk to anyone and dress in whatever apparel I chose…. After all, Iranians wore bikinis on the beach.
It was somewhat of an illusion, of course. Through a political sleight of hand that was sometimes masterful and other times clumsy, an autocratic monarchy tightly controlled the environment. The shah wanted to see Iran move in one direction and many who deviated, politically or culturally, paid a price. Some were excluded from the system or publicly denounced. Others went to prison. A few, including Ayatollah Khomeini, were deported from the land of their birth….
After that initial trip, I didn‘t give much thought to going back and I certainly never envisioned making Iran a specialty. I went off and did stints as a foreign correspondent in Africa, then Europe. But the revolution in early 1979 and then the U.S. Embassy takeover later that year got in the way. For a journalist, Iran became the best story in the world. So I returned.
The images from the revolution‘s angry early years are also still strong in my mind. I‘ll never forget my first flight back to Tehran, when the pilot invoked God as he greeted passengers on the intercom. “In the name of God, the compassionate and merciful,” he said, “welcome aboard this flight to the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The same salutation had begun to precede every official‘s speech and every television broadcast. It became the first line of all public documents, from wills and deeds to marriage licenses. It was incorporated into the new national flag, integrated into business signs, printed atop official stationery and even painted as roadside graffiti….
Before we landed in Tehran, the flight‘s lone stewardess helped me tighten a big headscarf and button up a baggy ankle-length coat known as a roopoosh to better cover my hair and neck. She also gave me 10 Band-Aids to cover the nail polish I‘d forgotten to remove.
Once on the ground, I watched and the long line behind me waited as a customs official searching for cultural contraband tore up my deck of playing cards, tediously one by one, to drive home the point that they were no longer allowed. I also went through a body search and a currency check, when I had to declare every penny I brought in so it could later be reconciled with what I took out to ensure I didn‘t trade in a black market desperate for American dollars.
And those represented only a tiny taste of how much Iran was changing….
Cultural outlets were forcibly closed. University life was suspended while curriculum was reviewed. Bars and nightclubs had their liquor stocks destroyed before being boarded up. Religious vigilantes monitored morality in each neighborhood. Streets were often empty at night, because pedestrians and drivers wanted to avoid searches at impromptu checkpoints set up by the new Revolutionary Guards.
Even fashion had changed. Women were forced behind chadors and hejab, the generic term for a variety of body covers. Many simply retreated into their homes. To show loyalty, men grew beards or a permanent three-day stubble. Ties, the epitome of Western style, became taboo….
My first journey deep inside the revolution was sometimes bizarre, often challenging, but always interesting…. For the next 20 years, I went back to the Islamic Republic of Iran as often as I could — more than any American, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance often complained….
I ended up going back and back again during the revolution‘s second decade, when the headlines weren‘t as flashy, the threat not quite so blatant.
Understanding Iran isn‘t as easy as it once was — or at least as outsiders thought it was. But given Iran‘s history, resources and location, the country is no less important today than it was during the monarchy. The system has changed, but Iranians haven‘t….
The Last Revolution
The passions once evoked by Ayatollah Khomeini may have waned, even withered, as the tough realities of running a large country with a complex economy have taken precedence. But the idea behind the revolution led by the Imam still had historic importance two decades later — perhaps in some ways even more than when it started.
Its significance also extended far beyond Iran, the Middle East, the broader Islamic world and even the 20th century, for one simple reason: It is the last great revolution of the Modern Era.
The singular political theme of the Modern Era — and particularly the 20th century — has been empowerment, or the spread of political, economic and social rights to the earth‘s farthest corners, to all its diverse ethnic groups, races, religions and, perhaps last of all, to both genders. Dozens of countries can claim revolutions in the name of empowerment since the English Revolution of the 1640s created a modern precedent. But fewer than a handful represented seminal turning points. They set the pace, defined goals, provided justification and, most important, introduced a viable new idiom of opposition later adapted or imitated elsewhere.
But that pattern of global change has had one large gap: the Islamic bloc.
The Muslim world is a vast and vital area that accounts for more than 50 of the world‘s 191 countries. It stretches from Indonesia on the Pacific Ocean to Morocco on the Atlantic, from Kazakhstan in chilly Central Asia to Saudi Arabia on the warm Persian Gulf, from Somalia in drought-plagued east Africa to Nigeria on Africa‘s fertile west coast and from Yemen on the Red Sea to Lebanon on the Mediterranean.
The Islamic bloc also accounts for one of every five people on earth — or more than one billion who have been excluded from the political process for most of the Modern Era. As home to the final functioning monarchies and the largest number of authoritarian regimes, it is today the last bloc to hold out against the tide of democratic reform that has swept the rest of the world.
In this context, Iran‘s upheaval is arguably the Modern Era‘s last great revolution. It effectively completes the process launched in the West by other ideologies that were adopted by or adapted to all other parts of the world.
Like its earlier counterparts, Iran‘s Islamic revolution introduced a new ideology to the world‘s modern political spectrum. In a region where members of the opposition have often been imprisoned or exiled, it established the precedent of using Islam — a familiar, legitimate and widely available vehicle — to push for empowerment….
The impact of Iran‘s revolution on its brethren has also been obvious: It ignited the budding Islamic movement that emerged out of the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars and spurred on opposition movements throughout the Muslim world….
Less visible and more important, however, were the quiet efforts to produce Islamic alternatives to failed state institutions, from schools and clinics to farm co-ops and welfare agencies. Islamic groups struggled to create a new civil society — the network of associations, unions and clubs for workers, teachers, engineers, women, doctors, youth and other sectors that became a means of addressing problems their governments ignored….
At the beginning of the 21st century, the trend is far from climaxing. For years, empowerment in the Islamic world will be a major theme of political change — be it peaceful as in Jordan, bloody as in Algeria or tumultuous as in Indonesia. Iran‘s revolution may, therefore, not be the last revolution; other societies may well have national revolts that topple out-dated ideological systems….
Yet whatever happens, Iran‘s revolution will still rank as the Modern Era‘s last great revolution, because Tehran paved the way for using Islam to push for empowerment — not only politically. Just as the Reformation was critical to the Age of Enlightenment and the birth of modern democracy in the West, so, too, have Iranian philosophers advanced a reformation within Islam that is critical to lasting political change….
Revolutions are like fevers, Crane Brinton wrote in his classic work The Anatomy of Revolution. And like fevers, they progress through stages. The initial phase is marked by the onset of a raging temperature and other extreme conditions, including delirium. The next stage witnesses the breaking of the temperature and a long and fitful convalescence, often marked by a relapse or two. Finally comes the recovery and restoration to normal health. Iran‘s revolution may have been groundbreaking in its use of Islam as a political idiom. But when judged by Brinton‘s criteria, the upheaval was no different in goals or stages from the other great modern revolutions in the West, most notably in England, France and Russia. The popular uprisings led by the Independents, the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks all demanded freedom and empowerment from a privileged royal minority. So did Iran‘s Islamic revolutionaries.
Iran‘s use of religion was not even novel. It was also part of the political uprisings in Western societies….
During its first two decades, Iran went through all three stages of a classic revolution. By its 20th anniversary, the process was still not quite complete, but it appeared to be headed toward some sort of climax.
The revolution‘s opening phase covered a full decade, from 1979 to 1989, and is often referred to as the first republic. It began when Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, with a small jar of Iranian soil in his hand and Empress Farah Diba at his side, reluctantly abandoned the Peacock Throne and flew off to become a political vagabond on an “open-ended vacation.” The first republic lasted the entire final 10 years of Ayatollah Khomeini‘s life, ending only with his sudden death of a heart attack.
It marked the period when the fever raged most wildly, especially between 1979 and 1982….
It was also the period of the toughest challenges. In a lightning 1980 invasion ordered by President Saddam Hussein, Iraq swiftly captured thousands of square miles of Iran, including several strategic oil fields. Since Iraq invaded shortly after most of the shah‘s military had fled or been imprisoned or executed, Iran‘s physical survival was suddenly precarious.
But the greatest trauma was the political bloodshed and turmoil as the fragile young Islamic Republic of Iran struggled to create a whole new system of rule. The revolutionaries who came to power knew virtually nothing about running a state….
The turning point was the furor over a new constitution in the autumn of 1979. The disparate parties to the revolution had vastly different visions of a new state.
The first two formal drafts called for a strong president, based on the French model, to lead the nation. Both were largely secular in structure. Neither mentioned special powers for the clergy. But secular parties balked. They wanted other changes or further reviews or simply more input. So Iran was thrown into even deeper debates. The compromise was a proposal to elect an Assembly of Experts to sort through the differences and to write a final draft for the nation to vote on.
That was the moment Iran‘s future was formally hijacked by the clergy.
Fearful that other changes might further marginalize or even exclude them, Ayatollah Khomeini‘s followers introduced a process to vet candidates‘ credentials — a precedent that time and again allowed them to manipulate future elections, too. It worked. They won a majority. And the final draft ended up thoroughly Islamic.
The most important change was at the top. The presidency was weakened to titular status — to avoid a strong head of government creating a new dynasty, as had happened with the first Pahlavi king. Real leadership was instead invested in a Supreme Leader, a Velayat-e Faqih, commonly called a Faqih.
The position was created to check secular influences in all branches of government and to keep the revolution on an Islamic course. But it also had appointment powers over the judiciary and the military. It had ultimate veto power over candidates. It included the title of commander in chief. And in a departure from the rules established for the other branches of government, the term was for life.
The Supreme Leader was the closest thing to a political papacy in any government in the world….
The overall product was also one of the world‘s most unusual political systems.
Borrowing from Western models, the republican constitution called for three separate branches of government — executive, judicial and legislative — to provide checks and balances. But the theocracy also had another parallel layer of power: Virtually every branch of government had a shadow position or institution with equal power — at least equal — usually led by, loyal to or largely made up of clerics…
But the constitution didn‘t mark the end of the transformation — or the turmoil.
For the first presidential election in January 1980, a full year after the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini decreed that no clerics could run for president — further proof that he still didn‘t intend to establish a total theocracy.
Over the next 18 months, however, Iran was racked by bloodshed as the ruling clergy and their adjutants gradually eliminated former partners — leftists, nationalists and intellectuals — from any claim to power. The reign of terror sparked equally bloody counterattacks. In 1981, more than a thousand officials were killed by former allies who‘d turned against the revolution.
The Islamic republic had a particular problem keeping its presidents. In June 1981, its first president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, was forced to go underground, dressed as a woman. He later fled the country altogether when heated clashes with the clerics led Parliament to declare him “politically incompetent.” The second president was killed in an August 1981 bombing only five weeks after his election. The bomb went off, ironically, during a secret meeting to discuss attacks that had killed 200 officials, including 10 cabinet ministers and 27 members of Parliament in a June bombing.
So for the third time in 21 months and the second time in 10 weeks, Iranians went to the polls to elect a new president in October 1981. This time, using his powers as Faqih, the Imam reversed his ban. The clergy was allowed to run.
The victor was Ali Khamenei, a taciturn cleric with oversized black glasses and a bushy salt-and-pepper beard….
President Khamenei‘s election marked a critical turning point. As of October 1981, the mullahs were no longer only the supervisors and shadows of the state. They now dominated all its branches.
Iran officially had a government of God — a process that had taken more than two and a half years. As it tightened its hold on power, the new Islamic government also moved, between 1979 and 1982, to reshape every aspect of Iranian society, from schoolbooks and dress codes to music….
During the first republic, Iran also pushed to expand its Islamic ideology and influence beyond its borders. The years 1983 through 1986 were the most aggressive. At home, the mullahs completed the process of “cleansing” schools and universities, penal codes, banking laws, cultural outlets and the media of non-Islamic practices….
They also radically altered the status quo in the region. Once the protector of the Persian Gulf, Iran became its biggest threat as it sought to propagate militant Islam through a wide network of allies and surrogates. The challenge extended beyond states in the vicinity to others farther afield in the West, as Iran helped redefine terrorism and its tactics. Terms such as “suicide bomber” entered the lexicon of conflict.
On the war front, Iran began to turn the tide in a series of bold counteroffensives against Iraq‘s better-equipped and better-trained army. Tehran‘s only edge was a corps of young volunteers wearing headbands that declared their desire to become martyrs. Many eventually became human minesweepers, and the conflict soon became the bloodiest of modern Middle East wars.…
But the costs of Iran‘s expansionist goals, political arrogance and economic isolation were high. The revolution began to falter in late 1986. At home, public sentiment grew restless and then angry from the combined toll of the war; rationing of basic foodstuffs and internal wrangling. New U.S. embargoes on oil and other Iranian exports after the disastrous arms-for-hostages swap collapsed added to the growing economic squeeze. Iran lost ground against Iraq, until, by mid-1988, the front line was back to where it was in the war‘s early days….
The revolution reached the first of two near-breaking points in the final year of Khomeini‘s life. To survive, the regime was forced from mid-1988 to mid-1989 to end its aggressive thrusts on several fronts and begin a retreat. It started when Tehran accepted United Nations terms for a cease fire in August 1988….
With the war over, the regime then turned inward. To ease public discontent at home, rigid strictures both big and small were relaxed. Revolutionary committees, or komitehs, that monitored public compliance with Islamic regulations, were reined in. Sporadic nighttime roadblocks were eased. Iran‘s movie industry moved from themes of war and revolution to love and adventure. The bazaaris, or merchant class, won guarantees that foreign trade would not be nationalized. Chess, once forbidden as a form of gambling, was again permitted. And pale nail polish became permissible.
Tehran even made overtures to Western capitals and used its leverage to help win release of Western hostages in Lebanon. Through trade, relations began to improve. The revolutionary fever looked as though it was about to break.
But while the vast majority of Iranians both inside the regime and outside were ready to move on, Khomeini was apparently not willing to compromise his vision. As Iran celebrated its 10th anniversary in early 1989, the ayatollah abruptly issued a fatwa sentencing Salman Rushdie to death for his controversial book The Satanic Verses. The Imam decreed that the novel, which had fictional dream sequences attributed to the prophet Mohammad, was blasphemous against Islam and all Muslims. Ayatollah Khomeini‘s death sentence froze rapprochement with the outside world.
In a second move that threatened the revolution‘s own future stability, the Imam then fired his handpicked successor, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri. On the revolution‘s 10th anniversary, Montazeri had dared to criticize it. He publicly conceded that the Islamic republic had failed to fulfill much of its early promise. He condemned the mass executions. And he called on the government to “correct past mistakes”….
Ayatollah Khomeini had a broader goal in both draconian steps: He wanted to steer the revolution back onto its original course. The singular theme of the Khomeini decade had been deconstruction — of the monarchy, of foreign influences that flavored everything from education and business priorities to fashion, of the regional balance of power and of longstanding diplomatic and economic alliances. The Imam feared any relaxation might eventually dilute the Islamic agenda. So he pulled in the reins. Then he died.
The Islamic Republic did manage to survive the first republic and its most radical phase, despite stiff odds. But the sudden death of the Imam, whose unparalleled power and charisma could not be replaced by any single individual, left the Islamic Republic facing very mixed signals about what was supposed to happen next.
The revolution‘s second phase began after Ayatollah Khomeini‘s death and covered the next eight years, from mid-1989 to mid-1997. It basically coincided with —and centered on — the two presidential terms of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose wily charm, accessibility and Cheshire cat grin made him Iran‘s most popular and able politician. The so-called second republic marked the period of attempted convalescence.
The core issue of the second republic was whether the Islamic Republic would —or even could — move beyond Khomeini-ism. The shift didn‘t necessarily mean rejecting the Imam or denying the importance of Islam, but it did mean changing priorities and practices.
President Rafsanjani started out strong. Shortly before being elected, he redesigned the power structure and strengthened his own position by orchestrating constitutional amendments while he was speaker of Parliament. One change scrapped the prime minister‘s job and converted the presidency, a former figurehead position, into the top government job. The other major change weakened the role of Ayatollah Khomeini‘s successor.
The hastily selected new Supreme Leader was the former president, Ali Khamenei, a mid-ranking cleric who had just as hastily been elevated to the rank of ayatollah. He retained political powers but lost the role of top religious authority.
The new balance of power effectively positioned President Rafsanjani to define the post-Khomeini era. But the changes also reflected his goals. Iran‘s fourth president sought to fashion a durable state as the basis of authority and to make its survival less dependent on the credentials, personality or clout of the Supreme Leader.
President Rafsanjani then moved to change the other political players. During his first term, from 1989 to 1993, he expended much of his clout purging radicals who had a stranglehold on policy and who were most tied to the militancy that had ruined Iran‘s reputation abroad. The process took the better part of three years, but he eventually replaced the angry ideologues of the first republic with technocrats holding Western Ph.D.s and, in Parliament, with conservatives. Efficiency became a more important qualification than piety.
President Rafsanjani didn‘t intend to abandon Islam, but he did want to introduce pragmatism and soften the Islamic Republic‘s sharp ideological edge. He also wanted to shift the emphasis from deconstruction to reconstruction…. That meant less interest in how many people went to mosques and more concern about how many people had jobs, homes, schooling or health care….
But the convalescence proved fitful. The momentum behind recovery faced repeated challenges — and relapses. The system simply was unwilling to tolerate the medicine required to strengthen the regime and return Iran to normal health.
And without Ayatollah Khomeini‘s balancing act, the long-simmering divisions among the disparate revolutionary factions came to a boil.
During President Rafsanjani‘s second term, from 1993 to 1997, the revolution began to turn on itself. Divisions penetrated even deeper. The increasingly tense alliance between the president and the Supreme Leader often broke down. As debate erupted over the powers of a Supreme Leader and even the need for one, Ayatollah Khamenei cozied up to the conservatives led by Parliamentary Speaker Ah Akbar Nateq-Nouri. Together they stymied the executive branch — and debate about reform.
The system began to atrophy — and then unravel. President Rafsanjani was gradually rendered politically impotent. Meanwhile, Parliament passed no major legislation from 1992 to 1996. It was instead self-absorbed by moral issues, such as the impact of videos on public mores.
Daily life once more became more restricted. In the mid-1990s, tens of thousands were arrested for “social corruption,” while more than a million were warned about errant behavior — from improper Islamic attire to possession of illegal videotapes. In 1995, despite President Rafsanjani‘s opposition, the Parliament also outlawed satellite dishes.
The government of God had reasserted itself and then declared its monopoly on truth. The tentative openings of the late 1980s and early 1990s ended. Major problems went unanswered. Per capita income, halved during the first republic, sank further. Iran‘s Chamber of Commerce admitted that by 1996 up to 40 percent of Iranians lived below the poverty line or barely above it; diplomats pegged the figure closer to 60 percent….Even some of the regime‘s most ardent supporters began to believe that the Islamic leadership had left them behind. Sporadic unrest erupted in Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Qazvin and Arak. Thousands were involved in smaller pockets of unrest over high prices and housing shortages. Despite the stiff Islamic penal code, crime soared….
The end of the second republic marked the second near-breaking point…. Instead of an idyllic state with godly virtues, Iran in mid-1997 was a country rife with corruption more extensive than during the Pahlavi Dynasty, paralyzed politically by irreconcilable factional disputes and sinking fast economically. It was, in many ways, in worse condition than at the end of the first republic.
The Islamic Republic was on a precipice.
A funny thing then happened on the way to the polls. In May 1997, Iran‘s political pendulum seemed about to swing to the far right. The first republic had been dominated by radicals. The second republic was led by pragmatic technocrats in the political center. The poll to elect President Rafsanjani‘s successor appeared to be headed toward a conservative victory, consolidating the right‘s hold on power.
Indeed, the election had widely been considered a done deal more than a year before it took place. The Supreme Leader, senior judges, top military officers and a majority in Parliament all backed Speaker of Parliament Nateq-Nouri, one of the half-dozen leading conservatives. Then more than 200 other candidates who registered to run were disqualified by the Council of Guardians….
But the strategy backfired.
Public disgust was so deep that Nateq-Nouri was trampled at the polls by a dark-horse candidate named Mohammad Khatami, who campaigned for restoration of the rule of law and the creation of a civil society. Khatami, ironically, had also been the minister of culture and Islamic guidance purged by conservatives for his tolerance of diversity.…
But in 1997, after a 12-day campaign, he swept the four-way race with just under 70 percent of the vote. Voters turned out in greater numbers than at any election since the first poll a generation earlier to endorse the revolution….
The election put an abrupt end to eight years of the second republic.
The election may also have marked the onset of recovery — a revolution‘s third and final phase. President Khatami certainly started off in a healthy direction. During his first 18 months, he launched new initiatives and encouraged or tolerated many others generated outside government. The revolution‘s red lines began to be eased and even erased.
He also called for the formation of political parties to enshrine diversity. Local elections were held in early 1999 to disperse power at last beyond the center, as was originally mandated in the constitution but had never been carried out. Movies and books once banned were released. Licenses were granted to dozens of newspapers and magazines, many of which defined the new cutting edge of freedom in Iran with exposés on senior military officers, satires on the system and even interviews with American officials. Most important to the average Iranian, fear and tension were replaced with prospects of change and hope.
Iran‘s new president also took bold steps to improve relations with the outside world. In a widely watched CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, President Khatami called for cultural exchanges between Iranians and Americans and other steps to bring down the “wall of mistrust”….
President Khatami didn‘t deserve full credit for Iran‘s movement, since he didn‘t initiate the trend…. Indeed, what most distinguished the third republic from the two earlier phases – and what gave it the greatest prospect of enduring — was the fact that leadership increasingly came from the streets, not mosques or political offices….
But President Khatami was the one to pay the price for attempting change….
Some of the problems were the same that President Rafsanjani had encountered: The Supreme Leader was unwilling to cede control of Iran‘s agenda to the president. The gap between the two men‘s positions quickly reached an unprecedented divide…. Parliament‘s conservative majority was also unwilling to tolerate changes that would decentralize power to the masses.
To keep the new crop of reformers off-track, conservatives in several government branches diverted political attention with a slew of trumped-up crises: Tehran‘s popular mayor, who also had helped run President Khatami‘s campaign, was convicted of graft in a transparently political trial. Student rallies to back Khatami were disrupted by gangs of political thugs…. New media voices were silenced for not being Islamic enough. And in the most ominous development, five dissident writers and thinkers were found brutally murdered.
Once again, the revolution appeared to be suffering a relapse.
On its 20th anniversary in 1999, Iran faced real questions about whether Khatami‘s election would ever produce a real recovery. If it didn‘t, the Islamic Republic faced the strong prospect of a serious setback that, if untreated, could even prove terminal…. Once the idea of change was introduced, the public quest for reform was simply too strong to prevent it from continuing….
As the Islamic Republic began its third decade, vast numbers of Iranians were indeed indifferent about an ideology that once inspired them to revolt. Public zealotry and passionate displays of piety had largely disappeared. As faith once again became a private rather than a public practice, Iran‘s mosques were virtually empty. Widespread complaints about the noise from mosques even forced the office of Ayatollah Khomeini to appeal to clergy throughout Iran to turn down their muezzins….
Islam began to bear the brunt of the blame for the clerics‘ failures. A noble religion was hurt by the practitioners‘ clumsy and ineffective tactics. By 1999, Iranians were far more absorbed in the basic issues of daily survival than in grand ideology.
None of our revolutions quite ended in the death of civilization and culture. The network was stronger than the forces trying to destroy or alter it,” Brinton wrote of the final stage of revolutions.
“Societies which undergo the full cycle of revolution are perhaps in some respects the stronger for it. But they by no means emerge entirely remade."
As the 21st century began, the Islamic revolution appeared to be right on course.
A native of Ann Arbor and alumna of the U-M, Robin Wright has reported from more than 120 countries as a news correspondent for the Los Angeles Times , The Sunday Times of London , CBS News , The Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor. Wright visited the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies April 3 and presented a lecture based on her recent book. The following article is excerpted from THE LAST GREAT REVOLUTION by Robin Wright Copyright © 2000 by Robin Wright. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A Knopf, a Division of Random House Inc.