Tuesday, June 19, 2012


IRAN: We study History for a reason; or at least we used to

Given the relentless push toward war with Iran, it is time again to bring out the history books. The weapons for combating ignorance are there for those who care to deploy them: A timely book by Christopher de Bellaigue is reviewed in this issue of The London Review of Books. Entitled Why Weren't They Grateful, the review reminds us of the destructiveness of colonialism:
Both liberal and radical Iranians could cite instances of the country’s humiliation by the West in the 19th century, when it had been dominated by the British and the Russians. The events of the early 20th century further undermined its political autonomy at a time when its political institutions were being liberalised (a parliament had been established as a result of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-7). In the First World War, Britain and Russia first occupied and then divided the country in order to keep the Ottoman-German armies at bay. The end of the war brought no respite. The Red Army threatened from the north and Britain, already parcelling out the Ottoman Empire’s territories, saw an opportunity to annex Iran. Lord Curzon, now foreign secretary and convinced, as Harold Nicolson put it, that ‘God had personally selected the British upper class as an instrument of the Divine Will,’ drew up an Anglo-Persian agreement which was almost entirely destructive of Iranian sovereignty.
The story of Mossadegh is told up to his vilification by the British and, not to be outdone, the USA:
Having proclaimed the ‘American Century’, Henry Luce’s Time took a particular interest in commodity-rich Iran, arguing that the ‘Russians may intervene, grab the oil, even unleash World War Three’. Already determined to overthrow Mossadegh, the British did not take long to exploit the growing American obsession with Soviet expansionism: Iran was to provide a test run on how to taint Asian nationalism by associating it with communism. They found a receptive audience in the Dulles brothers, the secretary of state and the head of the CIA in Eisenhower’s new administration in 1953.
The rest is history: the overthrow of Mossadegh, the installation of the Shah, all with the help of the CIA. If you don't know it, then at least read the book! Maybe then you'll understand why:
Support for Iran’s right to pursue its nuclear programme cuts across the country’s political divisions. Aspiring regime-changers in the West remain blind to the undiminished potency of Iranian nationalism. More bizarrely and dangerously, they ignore the hardening attitudes of the country’s ruling class after a century of humiliation by the West. ‘We are not liberals like Allende and Mossadegh, whom the CIA can snuff out,’ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, now Iran’s supreme leader, warned during the hostage crisis in 1979.

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To Anonymous: There are a number of blogs where one can comment on these issues (not much "discussion" takes place, but people do leave their views in the comments section). As a rule, I don't endorse any one in particular, but you might check out Informed Comment and Just World News. Joshua Landis covers Syria and Lebanese Professor As'ad AbuKhalil is considered indispensable by many.
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