Monday, June 22, 2009


There are reports that protesters and demonstrators in Teheran carry signs with a photo of Muhammad Mossadegh. Thanks to for pointing me to this story in The Guardian by Stephen Kinzer.

Recall that Mossadegh was elected prime minister in 1953. One of his first actions was to nationalize Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This outraged the British, then the world's premier colonialists. The Shah, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, allied with the British and Americans, tried to fire Mossadegh, but it was the Shah who was forced into exile. Then, like a deus ex machina, the American CIA engineered an overthrow of Mossadegh and, as a result, it was the U.S. government that brought back Mohamed Reza Shah, and helped re-install the Shah in Iran.

Kinzer writes:

"In the summer of 1953 the CIA sent the intrepid agent Kermit Roosevelt – grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed Americans should "walk softly and carry a big stick" – to Tehran with orders to overthrow Mossadeq. He accomplished it in just three weeks. It was a vivid example of how easy it is for a rich and powerful country to throw a poor and weak one into chaos.

"With this covert operation, the world's proudest democracy put an end to democratic rule in Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi returned to the Peacock Throne and ruled with increasing repression for a quarter-century. His repression produced the explosion of 1979 that brought reactionary mullahs to power. Theirs is the regime that rules Iran today.

"Carrying a picture of Mossadeq today means two things: "We want democracy" and "No foreign intervention". These demands fit together in the minds of most Iranians. Desperate as they are for the political freedom their parents and grandparents enjoyed in the early 1950s, they have no illusion that foreigners can bring it to them. In fact, foreign intervention has brought them nothing but misery."

Is there any Iranian who does not bristle and recoil at the memory of U.S. foreign intervention in 1953 putsch?

So posters with Mossadegh are demonstrators' ways of telling the U.S. to keep out, to butt out, not to interfere with Iranian elections. Even though the demonstrators are looking for more democracy in the Islamic Republic of Iran, they most certainly don't want Americans telling them what to do.

Writes Kinzer:

"The US sowed the seeds of repression in Iran by deposing Mossadeq in 1953, and then helped bathe Iran in blood by giving Saddam Hussein generous military aid during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Militants in Washington who now want the US to intervene on behalf of Iranian protesters either are unaware of this history or delude themselves into thinking that Iranians have forgotten it. Some of them, in fact, are the same people who were demanding just last year that the US bomb Iran – an act which would have killed many of the brave young protesters they now hold up as heroes.

"America's moral authority in Iran is all but non-existent. To the idea that the US should jump into the Tehran fray and help bring democracy to Iran, many Iranians would roll their eyes and say: "We had a democracy here until you came in and crushed it!""

Bottom line: Given the sordid history of U.S. interference in Iranian affairs, Barack Obama is most certainly right in being cautious and not taking sides in what is an internal struggle in Iran. This is the only U.S. policy that respects Iran and Iranians.

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