it is premature to assess Iranian prospects. But two general points
can be made. First, fundamentalism is inherently incapable of
stimulating and releasing creative energies which can mark the
beginning of a renaissance in Iran and the rest of the Muslim world.
Secondly, fundamentalism can generate enormous fervour and energy.
While it is open to question whether or not it can be channelized,
its destructive potential is obvious.
Again, it is too early to say whether
Islamic fundamentalism is likely to move up on the West's agenda. In
the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, Westerners
are more willing to face this reality than they were before. Indeed,
earlier they regarded Islamic fundamentalism as an ally against
communism. Witness the US support for the fundamentalists among the
Afghan Mujahideen till as late as 1991.
Be that as it may, however, we are
probably witnessing a shift in Western policy orientation similar to
the one at the end of the war against Nazi Germany in 1945, when the
Soviet ally suddenly got converted into a mortal foe. By way of
illustration, we may refer to Brian Beedham's article: Turkey
Star of Islam10. He wrote:"The
appropriately crescent-shaped piece of territory that starts in the
steppes of Kazakhstan and curves south and west through the Gulf and
Suez to the north coast of Africa [is] notably liable to produce
turmoil and mayhem on a large scale in the coming 15-20 years".