New Delhi: Three momentous events, all in November-December 1979, are the genesis of a great deal of chaos the world faces today.
First, was the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran and the Iranian occupation of the US embassy, a siege which lasted 444 days. The siege began Nov 4.
The Iranian revolution coincided almost exactly with the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca Nov 20, 1979. Armed Wahabis charged with the missionary zeal of the Ikhwan ul Muslimeen or a virulent Muslim Brotherhood opposed to the Saudi monarchy occupied the mosque.
The cloak of secrecy the Saudi state threw on the 15-day siege gave rise to rumours that Iran of the Ayatollahs was involved. Neither the Saudis nor their American backers were interested in absolving Iran of the outrage. So they allowed the rumour to stand.
The siege was actually a manifestation of widespread anger with the Saudi monarchy's minimal shift away from Wahabi puritanism. There was universal disgust with the substantial American presence around the oil wells of Dahran. The rebels saw the “American infidel” as a harmful influence on Wahabi faith.
The twists and turns the media gave to the story fuelled anti-Americanism worldwide. The US embassy in Islamabad was set on fire.
Just then the Soviets obliged. They moved into Afghanistan on Christmas eve. This became the third momentous development of 1979.
The world's eyes were fixed on the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Islamic revolution in Tehran. The far reaching potential in Juhayman al-Otaybi's revolt to topple the House of Saud was diligently hidden from public view.
The Saudi rulers, including Minister for Internal Security Prince Nayef, found in President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski a willing partner to transform danger into an opportunity.