Naj writes: (please forgive typos and grammatical errors, in RUSH before running to work, feel free to edit and cross post)
In the name of God, the kind and the merciful,
People’s participation is one of the grand achievements of the Islamic Revolution, which must be guarded and expanded. This magnificent presence, from all sectors and all ages and all professions, has a clear message that the people are the rightful owners of the country and the revolution. This message must be heard today; their silent protest and civil manners during these protests is an evidence of their maturity, vigilance and responsibility and it also reflects this unequivocal fact that the people are entitled to basic and specific rights that any government is obliged to respect. Provocative and insulting propaganda against a people who have always acted independently, and blaming their rightful movement to foreigners is in itself a sign of implementing wrong politics that cause further alienation of the people from the government. Read the rest of this entry »
One hears bits and pieces of Iranian-American history in the blogosphere. They travel like whispers, implied in stories that seem to fall somewhere between gossip and truth. But I have felt for some time that if Americans really understood their country’s past relationship to Iran, public policy would be dramatically different.
Last week, my wife Lori and I were privileged to hear Juan Cole, the University of Michigan’s distinguished expert on Middle Eastern affairs, at a luncheon of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. It occurs to me that notes from Prof. Cole’s brief lecture, with a few supporting resources, could provide a valuable structure for people – perhaps especially Americans – to understand the back-stories that provide the, “Oh, I get it!” when reading of today’s crises. Ironically, much American history is well known to people of other nations, but remains virtually untold here in the US.
Mostly following Prof. Cole’s chronology, then, here’s my list of headline-making bullets from the last hundred years of Iranian-American relations. Quotation marks indicate direct quotes from Prof. Cole. Italics indicate quotes from other sources, which are referenced by links within the quotes themselves. Watch for Part 2: Ahmedinejad, weapons, and nukes in a week or so, along with Part 3: Understanding US withdrawal from Iraq.
By all means, check out Prof. Cole’s Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion for reflection on news events as they happen.
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- 1905-1911: IRANIANS DEMAND A CONSTITUTION; US INFLUENCE WELCOMED. The US started off looking like “an honest broker” to the Iranians. From 1905-1911, the Iranian public demanded a constitution and good government. They got the constitution. American advisors were invited to help with the government.
- 1913: OIL PRODUCTION BOOMS – UK SEIZES PROFITS. The British government, at the impetus of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, partly nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1913 in order to secure British-controlled oil supplies for its ships. Iranians would receive, perhaps,15% of the profits from their own oil for the next forty years. 85% of the profits fueled British economic growth, instead. APOC eventually became British Petroleum (BP).
[One wonders how many millions we’re talking about here. It must have paved roads, built schools and hospitals, and paid teachers for half a century of British, rather than Iranian, citizens.] … Read the rest of this entry »
A good friend of mine asks an important question regarding President Obama’s low-key response to the Iranian election crisis:
…if things go back to normal isn’t all of the bloodshed-the woman bleeding out in the street for all to see in streaming video-all for nothing? […]
I am trying to be a lover of peace…but it is so hard when people are being killed at the hand of a dictator and watching the most influential man in the free world be silent.
I’m truly glad he asked. Here is my response:
1. Though perhaps not well covered by all news sources, Obama has been far from silent. Here are excerpts from his statement on Saturday:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
See the whole statement at Obama statement on Iran violence.
2. Those who understand Iran well are begging the USA not to go further than that. Even conservative Morning Joe agrees:
SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]
What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.
3. Here’s the core issue: American support is the kiss of death for reform movements in countries like Iran. Ever since the CIA took down the Iranian democracy in 1953, the parties in power now have seen anything American as a threat to national security. If the President says one word that can be construed to suggest that the USA is behind the reformers, the Iranian government will believe it has a national security reason for radical, brutal action against them. It will give them an excuse to a) annihilate the movement (the killing could become far worse than it is now), and b) ignore the reformer’s issues and write them off as foreign-inspired nonsense.
Here’s how the President said it on CBS’s Early Show yesterday:
In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:
“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.”
McCain and Graham are growing increasingly isolated, as Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media endorse Obama’s measured response.
4. It’s a deadly game. Obama could win himself a lot of public support by really giving it to Iran. But, thank God, he knows the world well enough to resist the temptation to do that.
For some reason, American foreign policy has often been tone-deaf, and almost intentionally so. Those who ridicule Obama for the hugely positive receptions he gets in Europe often say, “Who cares what other nations think?” And that becomes an excuse for deep ignorance of the impact of our actions on other nations. We get starry-eyed about our own goodness, and our foreign policy becomes one of doing what feels good to us.
As a result, we often make situations worse rather than better. In this case, understanding Iran means walking more softly rather than letting it all hang out. Here are some historical reasons why:
5. The Bush Administration accidentally torpedoed the reform movement in 2005. A reformer, either Rafsanjani, was the president before Ahmadinejad. He offered to open up relations with the USA, and to try to work together on Iraq, even writing a letter to Bush to propose it.
Bush, ever un-aware of the impact of his actions, saw Iran as an enemy and snubbed the letter (not even responding, I believe). Iranians knew it, blamed their President for having no clout with the West, and replaced the reform-minded President with hard-liner Ahmadinejad. Bye-bye reform, thank you USA.
6. And that is typical of the history of US policy toward Iran. Heavy-handed moves toward control, starting even prior to 1953 (in a move to force Iran to sell us oil at, perhaps, 10% of its value), are what Iranians expect from us. “Here they go again” is what they guard against. We’ve made that bed, and now we lie in it, having virtually disabled ourselves.
We see America as good. They see America as the country that robbed them of democracy and set up a corrupt puppet dictatorship and trained merciless, dreaded secret police who killed thousands, and is likely waiting for a chance to do it again. Freedom and democracy, to the revolutionaries of just 30 years ago, meant getting rid of US influence.
The only way to improve that is to allow Iranians to make their own way until they can trust the USA again. It will take a long time and a lot of patience, for we’ve spent half a century degrading ourselves there. But I think we might be surprised what a little worldwide credibility could accomplish.
Thanks for asking!
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- Scarborough: McCain And Graham “Outrageous” On Iran, “Stunning” (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Republicans Talk, Ahmedinejad Smiles (firedoglake.com)
- US urges Iran to end ‘violence’ (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Iran’s ex-president lashes out at Ahmadinejad (cnn.com)
Could be a breakthrough. The election is June 12.
Tags: Ahmadinejad, Khatami, Mousavi, Iranian+elections, Iranian+reform, Monte Asbury
University of Michigan Middle East expert Juan Cole revealed the elephant in the room during an important interview on DemocracyNow! yesterday. While President Bush has convinced a majority of Americans that Iran seeks a nuclear weapon and is killing US soldiers, the objective truth is:
JUAN COLE: Neither thing is actually in evidence. …
AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that there are more Saudi fighters in Iraq than Iranian, but that is almost never raised, either in the press or by the administration?
JUAN COLE: To my knowledge, the United States has never captured any Iranian with arms. There were 136 foreign detainees, the last we knew. There are 24,000 Iraqi ones. And the 136 contain no Iranians at all. 45% of them, earlier in the summer, were Saudis. I think that proportion has changed, but it’s such a small number. But, in any case, there is no proof of any actual Iranian military activity inside Iraq whatsoever. …
But isn’t Ahmadinejad an obvious threat?
AMY GOODMAN: What about Ahmadinejad’s power in Iran?
JUAN COLE: Well, Ahmadinejad is a ceremonial president. Read the rest of this entry »