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The History Of Too Much Foreign Involvement In Iran

Many weekend rallies by Iranians living in the U.S. involved waving American flags and calls for more American involvement in Iran. Further, some Republicans such as John McCain continued to call for more American involvement in the political struggle. However, all of this easily forgets the history of foreign involvement in Iran and how it directly contributed to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the brutal Islamic theocracy coming into power.

During World War II, an allied coalition involving the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded of Iran and forced neutral leader Reza Shah to abdicate, to replace with his son as a better anti-Nazi alternative. For a time, this younger shah helped with arms transfers to the Stalin government from the United States. However, the younger Shah soon turned anti-Soviet and anti-Communist once the war was over, and was used by the United States as an ally to blunt Communism during the Cold War years, despite the fact that the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was characterized by a huge number of political prisoners which numbered around 2,200 by the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Torture and other brutality was common during his rule. The Shah used fear and political repression to stay in power which planted the seeds of opposition to his rule among many Iranians throughout the world, including in the U.S. who routinely burned American flags and blamed the United States for keeping this brutal dictator in power. Further, every American president all the way from Roosevelt to Carter, both Democratic and Republican seemed to remain clueless to demand that the Shah make some political reforms in his nation and treat his people with more dignity. The extent of American involvement in Iran directly resulted in the long hostage drama at the American embassy in Tehran as an act of revenge for so much American support for political repression in Iran.Mohammad-reza-shah.jpg

While the shah eventually banned political opposition of all types by 1975, and gained a horrible reputation among international organizations such as Amnesty International, the shah did allow some social reforms which also angered the Shia clergy and thereby setup his position as being viewed as a weak advocate for the Muslim faith among many more fervent Muslims. The shah was a forward looking leader working to make Iran(which was formerly the powerful ancient kingdom of Persia) into a powerful modern world empire with a modern society and huge world trade. The shah also opened up equality for women and other social reforms and made the society largely secular in nature, which certainly angered many religious radicals among the Shia clergy. But the shah did recognize the state of Israel, unlike other Mideast nations. In this regard, he was seen as a pragmatic realist.

In 1951, there was a short-lived effort by a rising political leader who became the prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, to rule Iran and to make the nation a true democratic state. However, his effort to nationalize the oil industry was something intolerable to the British who controlled this industry. In 1953, the British oil industry was able to get the support of both the British and American governments, and the British Secret Service and the American CIA cooperatively in a covert scheme meant to end democracy in Iran and to replace Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and the Iranian parliament with a military backed coup to bring the shah back into power, where he ruled with an iron hand. Back then as now, oil rules the American and British foreign policy towards the Mideast.

While some like John McCain call for more American involvement in Iran, the truth is that so much American involvement in this nation only resulted in the end of democratic rule in this nation once before and the placing of the shah into power as a cruel dictator. Further, so much American involvement also contributed the ending of all opposition parties in Iran by 1975, and a one party rule of Iran hardly any better than the one party rule of Germany under Hitler. The fact of the matter is that American presidents such as Richard Nixon invited the shah to the White House praising him as some great ally and hero, conveniently skirting the facts that his own jails were filled with political opposition leaders and torture and repression were how he ruled his country. When John McCain calls for more American political involvement in Iran, he ignores this history. NIXONSandshah.gif

If Iranians want a modern society and democracy, then they need to do it themselves. The United States can't hardly use the CIA or some other covert method or an outright war to install another proU.S. government in Iran once again. Not only would such an effort fail but it would only lead to another dictator once again. The United States can condemn brutality in Iran, but that's about all. But the United States cannot really continue to go around the world overthrowing governments and putting the people in power it wants. That has all changed over time. Such gunboat diplomacy is no longer acceptable in the modern world.

At some point, the political leadership in the American government needed to demand more democracy in Iran and for a multiparty system and a parliament with some real power to exist. But instead, the United States supported dictatorship and political repression in Iran, while claiming to hold dear those opposite values at home. Too much American involvement in Iran is directly responsible for this latest mess in Iran. More American involvement in Iran probably won't help either at this very late point.

The fact of the matter is that many Iranians in the U.S. long participated in anti-American and anti-shah rallies at American universities across the United States for years. Yet somehow, every American president, both Democrats and Republicans, failed to take a clue from this that the shah had a very weak grasp on power in Iran, and was but just one good coup or revolt away from being replaced. Two failed assassination attempts on his life were further evidence at how dire the situation was politically in Iran. Long ago, the U.S. needed to co-opt some moderate opposition leader into power in Iran, much like the way that Nelson Mandala was co-opted into power by the United States and Britain in South Africa to make that nation a more representative democracy. But now it is way too late for such a co-opting of any moderate into power in Iran by the West. For the sake of the profits of the British oil industry, both the United States and Britain threw democracy out in Iran using the CIA and other elements. If democracy should ever return to Iran, it needs to be by their own hands this time. For a change, Iranians, not the United States or Britain, need to decide the future political direction of Iran.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (22)

Allen:

Paul, all these people complaining about President Obama not doing enough, saying enough, are not thinking things through.

How does anyone know if the CIA is helping the protesters? The CIA isn't going to tell these idiots who appear on TV and spout their drivel. Nor are they going to tell any bloggers either.

So take it with a grain of salt, the losers are just trying to rally the disappearing base.

Paul Hooson:

Hello Allen. What you say is the absolute truth here. It is not known how much covert work is being done by the CIA or other American efforts to help the democratic opposition in Iran. Certainly, the Obama White House knows a great deal about what is going on in that nation that is not being disclosed publicly. So far, according to one source, the Obama White House has been very engaged in at least 140 issues since entering office. And Iran is certainly one of those issues as is the economy, health care reform, North Korea, Mideast peace, the American auto industry crisis, etc., etc. and etc. In fact, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin believes that President Obama is now balancing far more serious issues than any president in American history, more than even Lincoln or FDR were balancing at one time. That's how complex the problems and the American presidency have become.

But like you say, some like John McCain are preaching to the Republican base, regardless of the costs to those in Iran or American policy towards Iran. President Obama is no doubt moving cautiously publicly, but more privately much is being done to aid the democratic elements. But my biggest hope is that the ultimate outcome in Iran this time around will be better than in the past.

J.R.:

If Iranians want a modern society and democracy, then they need to do it themselves. The United States can't hardly use the CIA or some other covert method or an outright war to install another proU.S. government in Iran once again. Not only would such an effort fail but it would only lead to another dictator once again. The United States can condemn brutality in Iran, but that's about all. But the United States cannot really continue to go around the world overthrowing governments and putting the people in power it wants.

Whoa, hold on there guys. No one has been calling for American military intervention (covert or otherwise) into the goings on in Iran. We have no idea what this opposition leader will do once in power, but it would seemingly be the result of a free, democratic election. To not say anything of substance in support of free and fair elections and just watch as those resistant to dictatorship are slaughtered runs counter to the foundations of our country. Obama should openly condemn the appaulling acts of the government in Iran and stand with the rebels in the fight for freedon.

Not doing anything just makes us appear afraid and weak. I'm really not sure what Obama hopes to gain should the thugs in Iran kill off the opposition. He is already being accused of intervening.

GarandFan:

The opposite side of the coin is if the people overthrow the mullahs. Their response to Obama might well be "Thanks a lot, now fuck off!".

DaveD:

Paul,
I am not sure I am getting the point. Your essay seems to advocate the president continuing to remain rather mum on the situation in Iran and allowing internal events alone to establish the outcome. I would perhaps support a stronger statement from the president much more along the line that not only McCain but the entire Congress has committed to the public record. But, I do understand your sentiments. Unfortunately, your reply to Allen seems to provide more insight into your actual feelings. It is basically an apologia for the president who because of being overburdened with "far more serious issues" does not have the desire or the time to make the events in Iran a priority. I think Obama will find like most presidents that although you enter office with an desired agenda, that agenda will be challenged by the unpredictability of world events. Since Obama is the leader of the United States and not, let's say Leichtenstein, he will be sought after for statements on these weighty matters in world affairs. He will be judged on how he priortorizes his agenda, that is on the choices he makes. If he chooses not to comment while Congress and other countries make stronger statements then he must accept the possibility he could look impotent as a leader. I would suggest that if events in Iran can run their course without any major involvement of Mr. Obama, the past 5 months have also taught us it is very likely the economy could probably have fared equally as well, if not better, without the president's major interventions.

Mac Lorry:
It is not known how much covert work is being done by the CIA or other American efforts to help the democratic opposition in Iran.

If something is not known then you have no basis to assume anything is being done. It's just as likely that the total involvement of the U.S. is the few statements Obama has publicly made.

So far, according to one source, the Obama White House has been very engaged in at least 140 issues since entering office.

100 of which are in the category of finding a dog, finding a school for the kids, where to take the first lady on that date he promised, what kind of a play set to get the kids, etc., etc. and etc.

In fact, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin believes that President Obama is now balancing far more serious issues than any president in American history, more than even Lincoln or FDR were balancing at one time.

In fact it's not a fact, just someone's opinion. Many of the other "big" issues are self-made such as health care, and the junk science based global warming scam that's driving the "green" energy fiasco. The car companies are going bankrupt anyway, so that issue took car of itself. Obama is basically following the foreign policies he inherited except for "engagement" with the Mullahs of Iran. However, it's that policy of engagement with the Mullahs of Iran that now prevents Obama from strongly supporting the protesters. If it turns in to a successful revolution Obama's policy will be shown to be a failure.

JohnMc:

My complements for a thoroughly one-sided and "blue" washed analysis of he history of American and Iranian relations.

Two points that you failed to mention: 1) one of the main reasons the CIA help in the early coup was that Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was also a socialist and began courting the Soviet Union. The US also had radar stations established to monitor the USSR ballistic missile programs and other intel. The loss of those stations during the Cold War would (and did) cause great harm in our intelligence gathering abilities of the Soviet Union. Please don't try and hold today's standards to the times of the past. Revisionist history is a bad thing to get involved in.

Point 2) In the early days of the Iranian Revolution, Jimmy Carter's Administration expressly forbid the Shah from cracking down on the unrest. Then, when it became a matter of the survival of the regime it was too late. A blood bath ensued in the fall of the Shah and we are now where we are because of it. If Carter had kept an Obama approach (i.e. hands off), Iran would probably have remained a close ally of the US...and Reagan may not have been elected president (how about that alternate history scenario for you?)

If anyone cares to read more of this time period and of the American Hostage drama, I highly recommend Mark Bowden's thoroughly research book, "GUESTS OF THE AYATOLLAH". If you don't trust my advice, at least read some of the reviews at Amazon.com before you pass judgment.

book link = HTTP://WWW.AMAZON.COM/GUESTS-AYATOLLAH-HOSTAGE-AMERICAS-MILITANT/DP/0802143032/REF=ED_OE_P/181-9653071-6729839

LiberalNightmare:

Nobody expects Obama to overthrow the govt of Iran.

It would be nice however, if he could take a break from his busy day (perhaps when he gets back from the DQ), and offer a little moral support to the citizens of Iran.

Paul Hooson:

Hello fellow readers. My premise here is that American intervention in determining the government of Iran has.t always been for the good of the people of Iran, but for the interests of the United States, alienating many in Iran, and creating the climate for 1979 Islamic revolution. Further, rather being a true moderate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi merely represents a "kinder and gentler" death-to-America philosophy. Mousavi is still one of the figures of the 1979 revolution and the hostage taking in Iran, radicalized by years of United States meddling in his nation as well as support for the Shah. It also appears he also supports the destruction of Israel as well as does Ahmadinejad. But Mousavi likely favors some dialogue with the U.S. and trade.

I know that blunting the Soviet Union was important during the Cold War, and both Turkey and Iran played important roles. However, should the U.S. undermine governments and install leaders merely because they serve the interests of the U.S. or allow people of other countries to choose their own leadership? Look at Vietnam for example. Ho Chi Minh was know to be Communist during WWII, however he was an ally of the United States, and American soldiers fought along his side to repeal the Japanese. In the 1950's, he expected his American friends would support his drive for independence from France, but instead opposed him. And after the French gave up fighting him,in a civil war in his divided country, then the U.S. fought him until 1973. American foreign policy seems to based on American intervention in foreign land over whatever serves our immediate interests, regardless of the cost to the people of that land. The Vietnam War left one million dead, and three million wounded, all because the U.S. simply wanted to prove to Communist Russia and China at the time that the U.S. was willing to take a stand against Communism, even if that's what most citizens wanted their government to be in Vietnam. American involvement in Iran seemed largely based on whatever served the short-term U.S. interests, regardless of the cost to those people there as well. Is such a foreign policy sound? Should it be up to the U.S. to decide the governments that other people live under? This is a good question.

ke_future:

"american intervention in determining the government of iran"? how about american concern for the oppresion and brutality being perpetrated by the iranian regime? and in answer to your question, no, the US shouldn't decide what governments other people live under. but they should be able to decide for themselves. and the current regine is opposed to that.

Mac Lorry:
Should it be up to the U.S. to decide the governments that other people live under?

You cited some examples of the failure of U.S. intervention, but you ignored the successes. Certainly the constitutional and representative government the U.S. installed in Japan after WW2 has to be seen as a great success. The fall of the Soviet Union and the many representative governments that resulted never would have happened without U.S. intervention.

Like rot, war tends to spread and the U.S. learned long ago that to have peace for it's own people it must promote peace around the world. Sometimes that means removing a dangerous government and replacing it with another. If the people are not ready to rule themselves then a different kind of government is needed until the people of that nation are ready to rule themselves in peace. That was the plan in Iran, but the planners didn't foresee the U.S. having a weak-kneed crybaby in the White House at the critical transition of Iran under the shah to Iran under a representative government. That failure resulted in the current theocracy. Iran is again at a critical transition and the question is, are we ready this time to make sure the Iranian people get a representative government? It doesn't look like it.

The Mullahs of Iran have no right to drag the world into war, which is what they are both preparing for and proclaiming. Like the people of Iraq, the people of Iran may need our help to establish a representative government that seeks peace and prosperity for it's own people, and in doing so, for all humanity.

drlava:

I hung out with about 200 or so Iranian-Americans at a candlelight vigil in support of the Iranian Democracy movement on Saturday night. Considering the Iranian born population of my city is around 15,000 I thought the turnout was rather small. There were bigger rallies in other cities that also got no coverage including the march to the Whitehouse.

Everything Paul has laid out is on target except for the belief among my Iranian friends that Moussavi is much more moderate than thought and has changed much over the past 30 years.

What was not in doubt was the absolute misunderstanding of the revolution by "conservatives" in America calling for more intervention by Obama.

This idea is the exact opposite of what the Iranian democracy movement has fought for over the past 120 years.

To advocate FURTHER interference from Obama is to admit that you are an absolute witless fucking moron with no connection to the real world and surely no connection to what is on the minds of Iranians.

Jay Tea:

Oddly enough, no one has brought up the Iranian mullahs' own attitudes towards intervention in other nations. I have to wonder what the people of Iraq and Lebanon would have to say about the matter...

J.

Paul Hooson:

Jay, you're right about the Shia Mullahs who would like to expand their own version of the Shia version of the Muslim faith in the region by their expansionist foreign policy. The Shiite sect traces it's roots to relatives of Muhammad compared to the Sunni sect with no linkage by relatives of Muhammad. The Shia sect views the Sunni sect as being false followers of the Muslim faith.

Drlava, certainly understands how this power struggle in Iran is by clashing elements of the nationalistic Iranian elements, not seeking or wanting foreign intervention in the affairs of Iran. It is their own nationalistic struggle to determine their own destiny.

Jay Tea:

Bit of a correction there, Paul. You say they "would like to." They're well beyond the "would like to" -- they've been working on it for years, and have left a bloody mark on at least two nations in their attempts.

As far as I'm concerned, they've forfeited any moral right to protest should other nations meddle in their internal affairs.

Live by the insurrection, die by the insurrection...

J.

Mac Lorry:
Drlava, certainly understands how this power struggle in Iran is by clashing elements of the nationalistic Iranian elements, not seeking or wanting foreign intervention in the affairs of Iran. It is their own nationalistic struggle to determine their own destiny.

Unfortuantly a number of morons haven't been keeping up with what's happening in the world. It doesn't really matter what the people of Iran want if it doesn't lead to a stable government that seeks peace and prosperity for it's own people, and by extension, peace with the rest of the world. Just who are these idiots who think the world should do nothing while the Mullahs of Iran build nuclear weapons and publicly proclaim other nations should be destroyed? What are the odds that Iran and Israel can fight a nuclear war without drawing the U.S. and Russia into that war? Are we going to let Iranians fight their own nationalistic struggle to determine their own destiny if that destiny threatens the survival of far larger populations?

Lee Ward:

Do we support democracy or not?

While it may appear that democratic elections may have been compromised in Iran, until that's confirmed we have no business intervening into Iran's affairs simply because some believe that the election maybe a sham.

Yes, if Iran presents a threat to us or our allies we will no doubt act in our country's best interests, regardless of whether a Iran is a democracy or not... but if the majority of Iranians in fact chose Ahmadinjehad, we have no business intervening simply because we think that's a bad choice.

Bush's bullshit nation-building, Muslim-hating/Christianity-promoting sabre-rattling produced Ahmadinjehad - Iran's ultra-conservative response to George W. Bush.

I'm in favor of investigating voter fraud in Iran to the extent we and the U.N. can, but up until it's determined that Ahmadinjehad is not a legally-elected office holder in Iran we need to ignore the call of the war hawks and maintain a higher ground.

Mac Lorry:
Yes, if Iran presents a threat to us or our allies we will no doubt act in our country's best interests, regardless of whether a Iran is a democracy or not...

That's my point as well. I would be happy to let Iran go whatever way it's people are able to take it, but by seeking nuclear weapons and threatening to annihilate another nation Iran forfeits it's right to self determination. The world can't wait until nuclear fireballs consume cities in Iran and Israel to act. At some point the world must find the backbone to issue an ultimatum to Iran to give up it's nuclear program or have a new government imposed on it by force (AKA the Iraq solution). The same may have to happen with North Korea.

We are quickly approaching a tipping point where Iran and/or NK will have a number of nuclear weapons and missiles that can deliver them to most points in the world. At that point all we have left is M.A.D., but it's insane to expect M.A.D. to work when you have madmen in control of nuclear weapons.

Kind of reminds me of the 1951 classic sci-fi film "The day the Earth Stood Still". With the development of nuclear weapons a threshold is crossed because now other civilizations are endangered by our immature actions. Self-defense give these other civilizations the right to intervene, even to destroy the Earth.

ke_future:

lee, hate to tell you this, but Ahmadinjehad has hated the US for longer than you think. he was invovled in the Tehran embassy kidnappings back in 1979. your attempt to lay the negative at Bush's feet is lame at best.

is it democracy to brutally crush peaceful protests? because that is what the leadership in iran is doing. they started the violence. they must be called out on it. and the very methods they are using lend credibilty to the protesters. that and the impossibly quick "recount".

given all the whining and crying on the left about stolen elections here in the US (that really weren't stolen, i might add), i am shocked at the lack of similar critism in the case of Iran where there is actually better evidence. well, okay, not shocked, but disappointed.

and what war hawks for god's sake? all those on the right are calling for is tougher rhetoric from the so-called leader of the free world. seriously, if the man can't be more forceful in his denouncation of the brutal crackdown occuring, how can he possibly maintain that accolade?

Lee Ward:

"lee, hate to tell you this, but Ahmadinjehad has hated the US for longer than you think. he was invovled in the Tehran embassy kidnappings back in 1979. your attempt to lay the negative at Bush's feet is lame at best."

Keeping you educated is a major chore, ke-future.

Ahmadinejad's 2005 election is a direct result of Bush's sabre-rattling.

Ahmadinejad was the only presidential candidate who spoke out against future relations with the United States. In an interview with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting a few days before the elections, Ahmadinejad accused the United Nations of being "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam."[47] He has openly opposed the veto power given to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In the same interview, he stated, "It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege." He has defended Iran's nuclear program and has accused "a few arrogant powers" of attempting to limit Iran's industrial and technological development in this and other fields.

"Being forceful" is how we got stuck with Ahmadinjehad in the first place - and only the insane keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

ke_future:

i think it is more likely that it was his populist politics combined with his islamic traditionalism that got him elected (from the same source you used)

In his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad took a populist approach, with emphasis on his own modest life, and compared himself with Mohammad Ali Rajai, the second president of Iran. Ahmadinejad said he had plans to create an "exemplary government for the people of the world" in Iran. He is a self-described "principlist"; that is, acting politically based on Islamic and revolutionary principles. One of his goals has been "putting the petroleum income on people's tables", referring to Iran's oil profits being distributed among the poor.[46]

in fact i remember analysts at the time making that very same point. it was really once he got into power that he really showed his anti-amaericanism. it wasn't until he became known on the world stage that people started coming out and saying they remembered him from the hostage days. he was the ultimate stealth candidate.

i challenge you to present any verifiable facts that show that his election and/or anti-americanism is directly caused by bush or any of bush's policies.

but all that is beside the point. he is orchestating a massive crackdown against his own people. his security forces and foreign mercenaries are killing people in the streets as they protest. if we don't have the moral courage to condemn these acts, what kind of an example are we showing to the world?

Mac Lorry:
"Being forceful" is how we got stuck with Ahmadinjehad in the first place - and only the insane keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Ahmadinjehad is but a puppet of the Mullahs, a willing puppet, but a puppet nevertheless. Being weak is how we got stuck with the Mullahs in the first place - and only the insane keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Give up the nukes and other WMD and the world could care less how the Mullahs rule over their people. Keep moving toward nukes and the means to deliver them and the world will either intervene before the tipping point or move the dooms day clock to 11:59 PM and thereafter live under threats and intimidation from Islamic extremists. Obama doesn't have a lot of time.


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