Appreciation of this context is essential if one is to understand why the power-conscious Saudi Crown Prince suddenly wants to travel back in time to his own childhood.
A correct interpretation of his comments would be that he also wants to end Saudi support for various Islamist groups and establishments around the world. Whether he can and will actually do this, is another – interesting – subject.
But with his desire to return to his own childhood, MbS is expressing a familiar principle of history: every major revolution imposes lasting change on the world. Just like the Russian and the French, the Iranian Revolution also turned – if not the entire world, then at least the Islamic world - upside down. And this far-reaching upheaval is not yet complete.
Even the Revolutionary Guards are nervous
And what is going on in the homeland of this Revolution, on its 40th anniversary? "Is the Islamic Republic on the brink of collapse?" This question was the title of a long interview published by the Iranian news agency Tasnim.
To fully appreciate the true explosive power of such a report, it is important to know that Tasnim is the agency of the Revolutionary Guards; it is better informed and more powerful than the IRNA, Iran's state news agency controlled by the government.
The choice of interviewee is equally charged: the 60-year-old sociologist Mohammad Reza Tadjik, who holds important posts and positions in Iran despite being close to the reformers. The British-educated professor is regarded as a recognised strategist and as deputy minister at Iran's Ministry of Intelligence, responsible for psychological warfare.
Tadjik, who is known for his candour, comes straight to the point. "In my opinion we're in a traumatic situation," is his first sentence in this interview and he immediately goes on to define what he means: "In such a situation the souls, emotions, thoughts and convictions of the people are burdened by pain and suffering that comes from both within and without. Society is out of kilter, it becomes abnormal."
The causes of pain and suffering from within are, according to Tadjik, corruption, mismanagement, bad decisions and wrong-headed strategies: all of which have violated the souls and emotions of the people.
The strategist for psychological warfare cities another symptom of the disease: "the second problem is that all authorities and capabilities turn out to be incapable. Everything that determined all actions in the past, the permitted and the prohibited, now has no validity: not just in the private sphere, but also in society," says the sociologist – and reaches an alarming conclusion: "Iranian society is breaking up, in a state where the past is dying and the future cannot arise, including the capacity for reform," says the former adviser to reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
"People of the world…"
Whether it's the disintegration that many fear, or the reform that many hope for, or the uprising of the dissatisfied that U.S. President Donald Trump aims to trigger with his sanctions: whatever happens now in Iran, whatever path this nation may take, it will pull the region along with it into an uncertain tide of change just as it did 40 years ago. It will change the world just as it did before.
Yet neither Trump and his allies, who believe they have found a strategy against Iran, nor Europe, currently striving for a definable diplomatic approach, can afford to be complacent over the possible future path of the Islamic Republic.
"People of the world, look upon [Iran]" might be an apt modification of Ernst Reuter's legendary sentence. With his appeal, Berlin's former mayor wanted to draw attention to the fate of the city, that what was happening there should be of interest to the whole world.
The situation facing contemporary Iran is not much different.
Translated from the German by Nina Coon