Every generation or so Iran tends to blow up, i.e. this month's demonstrations, the Islamic Revolution, the Tobacco revolt. Whenever these happen Baha'is try to weather the storm and avoid being accused of being on one side or the other. But there was one of these mass uprisings that was different than all the others. It was specifically led by the faith. In 1848-9 the Babi movement reached its climax with the Bab's trial, the conference of Badasht, mass sympathy with the Bab and his followers, and of course the various uprisings led by Babi clergy in Mazindaran, Nayriz, and Zanjan. Whenever the Iranian people arise to display their discontent, it always evokes memories of those heady days of the Bab's movement. For this reason, the tradition of Baha'i non-involvement in politics must be placed in the context of its application to the Iranian situation.
During Baha'u'llah's Baghdad ministry, many, if not most Babis assumed he was revitalizing the community so as to return to the anti-state warfare of Mulla Husayn, Quddus, Vahid, Hujjat, etc. Baha'u'llah consistently counselled Babis to pursue teaching instead. This goes back even before his imprisonment and exile. God only knows what would have happened if he had pursued holy war. Most likely, now there would be no such thing as the Baha'i Faith, or Babi Faith for that matter.
Secondly, take the Constitutional Revolution in Iran from 1906-11. Calls for modernization and democratization appeared to be the fulfillment of long-held Baha'i dreams. Opposition forces wondered where the Baha'is were in all that. Instead, Abdu'l Baha was dedicating the greater share of attention to the teaching work, especially in the United States. The rapid development of that community during that period is in large part attributable to the fact that the faiths' best and brightest had been sent to consolidate that fledgling community, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, Mirza Haydar Ali, etc. If 'Abdu'l-Baha had been turning his attention to Iranian politics what would that have gained anyone? I suppose we could have been a tiny minority party in a parliamentary regime that collapsed two generations later. By focusing on the Western Baha's 'Abdu'l-Baha could hasten the day when they would send pioneers to every corner of the globe.
The wisdom of non-involvement in politics is always clearer, even obvious, in retrospect. With that said, junior youth groups will alone accomplish in the next decade the sorts of social transformation token involvement in statist politics could only dream of. And this is only at a very early stage in the development of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan. But this is only possible if Baha'is don't let themselves get distracted by the lure of advancing a statist arrangement.