Vantage point

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why America is the Great Satan for Iran

As tensions build up between US and the Iran, it is amusing and even frustrating to see the coverage and opinion of this issue in the American media. As much as I despise Islamic fundamentalism, and am worried by its rise at so many places in the world, including Iran, I can't help but be surprised at how even the supposedly free, knowledgeable, unbiased and objective American media is telling just half the story.

If you were to ask the common man on the streets in America about Iran, he will probably say, "they took our embassy staff hostage and kept them hostage for over a year. They have always been anti-America, calling us the Great Satan, have been supporting terrorism against Israel, and are now creating trouble in Iraq."

All of which is the truth, but only half the truth. Iran did not magically appear on the scene in 1978. It has an older history, most of which was progressive and almost evolutionary in its movement towards a modern state. What halted and even subverted this movement was British and American meddling, for the sake of oil.

Iran, like all most countries in the world, was a feudalistic monarchy at the turn of the 19th century. But a few years later there was a Constitutional Revolution, completely internal, which cut the powers of the monarchy, and took them towards democracy. There were progresses, and even though there were some setbacks during WW2, Iran was well on track to become a moderate Muslim state. A democratic activist, Mohammad Mossadegh, became popular and was elected Prime Minister. He was a modern-minded man, extremely popular, and though he had support from the Ayatollah of that time (I forget his name), the movement was more nationalist in nature than religious.

The issue of contention was oil. What many people do not know is British Petroleum, was once the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Britishers held controlling stake in it. Mossadegh nationalised the company in 1951, refusing to let Britishers control such a vital resource. The Britishers were pissed off. They wanted to overthrow him, but a post-WW2 Britain hardly had the muscles. So they conned America!

This is where Americs enters the picture. They conned America into thinking that Mossadegh was a communist supporter. Though Truman didn't fall for the British trickery, Eisenhower did, and ordered the CIA to depose Mossadegh, a democratically elected modernist, with a "friendly" monarch.

This is what amuses me about American foreign policy so much. For all their claims of "spreading democracy", they have actually been more involved in nipping democracies in the bud.

How was Mossadegh overthrown? Obviously, the CIA does not have open offices in foreign countries. The whole coup was engineered from within the US Embassy in 1953 by a man who was FDR's cousin. This coup, carried out from within the US embassy, derailed Iranian democracy by overthrowing the popular Mossadegh and replacing him with Shah Pehlavi. Does this piece of information not put the 1978 embassy situation into perspective? But the 1953 plot is never talked about on American TV and the common man feels crazy Iranians barbarically attacked the US embassy.

Though Pehlavi's White Revolution had lofty objectives, remember, he was a dictator. His regime was corrupt and oppressive. And it was supported by America. This helped the Shia clergy, the only remaining opposition after Mossadegh and his supporters were neutralized, gain support. They became popular, and eventually 1978 happened.

Even after 1978, when Saddam attacked Iran, America kept supporting him. Saddam's attack on Iran was a megalomaniacal and opportunistic move, which he thought would help him wrest control of Kuzhestan, which was to the two countries what Kashmir is to India and Pakistan. It was a clear cut aggression by Saddam, and it was repelled even by the weakened Iranian army. But America and Britain blatantly supported Saddam, arming him, even as he carried out chemical attacks killing tens of thousands of Iranians.

Now after all this, is it surprising that Iranians call America the Great Satan? America meddled in their affairs first. Iran never went to finger America. America fingered Iran, by derailing democracy and foisting a dictator on them, just for the sake of British Petroleum. Then arming an enemy dictator who carried out chemical weapons.

Americans are nice people. But they are deluded, and rather bizarrely have a victim mentality in the most undeserving contexts. In the case of Iran, if the media is truly professional in putting things into context, they will realise that it was their government which "started the fight". Iran is merely finishing it.

This is not to say I support Ahmedinejad in this stand-off. I find it disgusting that religious zealots are running that country. And I think Ahmedinejad is a nutcase. But he is a nutcase whose seeds were planted by America.

The same man who created the Interstate Highways in America, Dwight Eisenhower, also created the Iranian Fundamentalism problem.

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