Sunday, July 19

Can Washington and Tehran Finally Escape Their Pathological Past?

Yes, but only if they begin behaving like responsible governments instead of causes.
The United States has a long history of aggressive intervention in Iran, mainly having to do with petroleum. It helped depose the Iranian government in 1941 and jointly occupied the country with Britain and Russia during World War II, during which it presided over a collapse of the economy and a horrible famine. It made a CIA coup in 1953 to crush a democratic movement seeking a better deal from the British on Iranian petroleum, and installed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi as a pro-American dictator. In the 1960s, whenever the Shah’s oil prices seemed excessive to Washington, officials were sent out casually to threaten him with another coup unless he fell back in line. Outraged at the Shah’s increasingly onerous, seedy police state, the Iranian people made a revolution against it in 1979, blaming the United States for decades of repression, jailings, and torture of regime critics.
When Saddam Hussein’s Iraq launched a war of naked aggression on Iran in 1980, seeking to seize its southwestern oil fields, the United States gradually swung around to allying with Baghdad, the aggressor. In the mid–1980s, the Reagan administration deflected Iran’s attempt to bring Saddam Hussein up on charges before the UN Security Council of using chemical weapons like mustard gas at the front. When Israel launched a war of aggression on little Lebanon in 1982 and occupied the southern, largely Shiite-populated region of that country, the United States was complaisant. Iran, in contrast, helped organize Lebanese Shiites for a long resistance to occupation. The United States castigated that resistance as “terrorism.” After 2003, powerful Washington officials such as Dick Cheney repeatedly threatened to attack Iran from occupied Iraq. From Tehran’s point-of-view, if you could think of a nasty thing that could be done to Iran and its people in the past seven decades, the United States has done it. Hence Khamenei’s caution about Obama’s suddenly outstretched hand.
All this is not to excuse Iran’s leadership for its own faults after the 1979 revolution. The taking of US hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran in November of that year will forever be a blot on the country’s rule-of-law. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini conceived of himself as leading a global Muslim struggle against the United States on the basis of theocracy and clerical rule. His allies blew up the US Embassy in Beirut. He declared the Muslim world’s monarchies illegitimate in Islamic law, saying that there was no place for kings in Islam, causing alarm from Rabat to Riyadh. He called on the Shiites of Iraq to rise up against their government, helping provoke Saddam’s military response. Going beyond agitating for rights for the stateless Palestinians, he set himself against Israel’s legitimacy (though the current Iranian government has a “no first strike” policy and has not threatened Israel with military invasion, contrary to what is frequently alleged). Inside Iran, Khomeini dismantled the democratic institutions that revolutionaries tried to set up in 1979 and ultimately approved the killing of thousands of dissidents. Revolutionary Iran was not a country but a cause, and its leaders did not care how much instability and destruction they caused to achieve their goals.
Perhaps a broader question for Western media sources to answer is this;
To what extent is the West’s obsession with Iran rooted in its collective inability to beat the country into submission and turn it into a western colony?

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