“A collection of laws is not enough to reform society,” Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini wrote in his book some decades ago. 

The appointment of a caliph [person claiming to be representative of the prophet Mohammad], he added, “Was not for the sole purpose of explaining the laws but also for implementing them.”  In the decades since, Khomeini and his disciples have proceeded to implement this medieval interpretation of Islam into every aspect of life in Iran, with deliberate plans for extraterritorial expansion.

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As free societies grapple with how to best contain the deceptively sudden growth of fundamentalist Islam and the Islamic State in particular, Khomeini’s blueprint seems all but forgotten.

Having first declared himself a Caliph and not content with legislating laws or a primitive penal code, Khomeini sought and then succeeded in implementing these medieval laws. To expansionists like him, they and not a popularly chosen representative government are endowed with the know-how of running a society. This explains why Khomeini sanctioned the amputation of limbs, the mass killings and stoning to death in order to subdue Iran’s vibrant and secular society. Misogyny was and still remains a pillar of the Ayatollahs’ conduct.  But what must an unelected “Caliph” to do to sustain his divine rule?

The killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi in Samarra, Iraq last December, ostensibly an isolated event, is highly instructive here. Taqavi was the most senior Iranian commander to die abroad since the Iran-Iraq war ended nearly three decades ago. He had played a key role in Tehran's training and control of Shiite militias in Iraq.  Speaking at his funeral in Tehran, Supreme National Security Secretary, Ali Shamkhani, said, “If the dearest children of Islamic Iran like martyr Taqavi do not resist the sedition of the takfiri terrorism in Iraq and Syria by sacrificing their blood the enemy will surely have an eye on creating insecurity in our dear homeland.”   

Iran’s extraterritorial ambitions, its instigation of regional turmoil, and even its deceptive gamesmanship during nuclear talks should be viewed through such a prism.    

“We must make unofficial visits [to other nations] aside from the official ones,” Khomeini said in October 1981.  “If we want to export this revolution we must do something so that the people themselves take government in their own hands.”

And so, the Iranian regime institutionalized the "export of revolution," with the aim of creating a global Islamic rule as a universal message, an ideal and a specific goal for all who deem this illicit construct of Islam a legitimate one.

The Islamic State, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Taliban must hence be beheld as only “hardware” fragments of a complex machinery.  The “software,” the beating heart, the inspiration for their treacherous ways is located within the government Khomeini fashioned in Tehran.

The civilized world can no longer afford to beat around the bush.  We cannot write a software to patch the recently reported Islamic State hacking of  a pentagon computer, provide enough boots on the ground to guard sensitive sites in the heart of Europe, or defeat the IS and alike without first addressing the ideological and intellectual worms crawling in Iran. The failure to do so invites not only a tactical, but also strategic defeat for Western liberal democracies.

To be sure, meeting the Iranian challenge head-on is no easy task, but could be accomplished without the need for foreign military involvement.

Unlike most of its neighbors, Iran has the required assets to rid itself and the rest of us of this nightmare.  With a three-millennium-history, history rich with civilized governance and cultural heritage, the Iranian people have orchestrated three major revolutions over the past century with the hope of instituting a secular government.  In 1906, 1953, and the 1979 revolutions, the people of Iran pursued, but for multitudes of reasons, never fully secured secular democratic rule. In neither of these democratic uprisings, did a foreign power play a constructive role.   

While everyone agrees that we cannot bomb this problem away, all are curiously ignoring the natural antithesis to Khomeini’s/IS’s brand of Islam.  What are the basic characteristics of this ideological counterbalance?  The ballot box, separation of religion and state, gender equality, a market economy and a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These are elements of a well-articulated framework for the future Iran proposed by the Iranian opposition leader, Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).  For more than three decades, Rajavi and her movement have spearheaded the global struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.  While Middle East demographics heavily favor women and the youth, the NCRI long ago recognized that any viable campaign against fundamentalist Islam requires not only active participation of women, but also their leadership. 

Recognizing and empowering such a movement is the most tangible step the West can and must take to begin the process of defeating extremist Islam, its caliphate in Iran and possibly in the Middle East.

Sadeghpour is the political director of the Organization of Iranian American Communities - US (OIACUS.ORG)