December 16, 2012. Tehran. There’s an old saying – believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. That seems especially true in the case of America’s half-century-long confrontational relationship with Iran. So, in the build-up to possible war between the two nations, Whiteout Press presents this ten minute video documenting the true history of the 61-year US-Iran conflict – a history all but censored by the American media.
A message from the Iranian people to the American people. Image courtesy of Xinhua News Service.
Setting the stage for war
Make no mistake, while the vast majority of both the American and Iranian people have no desire whatsoever for armed conflict between their two nations, the fixated and unbending decades-old leadership of both countries seem intent on war. And while cheerleaders on both sides site their religious missions, popular support, Israel, nuclear proliferation and a host of other seemingly sincere reasons for war, the real motivation is, as hit has been for 61 years, corporate oil money.
As a brief introduction, it’s worth reminding readers that if the US and her allies go to war with Iran and her allies, it won’t be the first time. As far back as the 10 different Christian Crusades between 1095 and 1272, the Christian west has been trying to conquer the Muslim east, and vise versa. Led by Christian Kings like England’s Richard the Lionheart, Louis VII of France and Barbarossa of Germany, no less than 10 separate Holy Roman invasions were undertaken against the Muslim world.
Going even further back in time, the ancient Persians were trying to conquer the Christian world 4 thousand years before Christianity was even born, and 4.5 thousand years before Islam. Led by famous Emperors such as Cyrus the Great, Darius I, Xerxes I, and Saladin, great Persian armies have been invading the west for almost 6,000 years.
21st Century conflict
Fast-forward to the mid-20th Century for an introduction to the causes and motives for today’s US-Iran conflict. Less than a decade after World War 2 and coinciding with the end of the Korean War, the days of a Persian Empire were long over. Now, the dream of Empire-building was an obsession of the west – namely the United States, who was in the midst of building the largest and most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Next on America’s list of conquests – Persia, or Iran as it’s known today.
The seldom-reported start of the modern US-Iran conflict
A fact-based 10-minute video detailing the current 61-year US-Iran conflict is quietly making its way through America’s independent press. Surprisingly, it portrays the situation almost entirely reversed from the version repeatedly playing out on American TV sets. It also takes a moment to place the viewer in the shoes of the average Iranian citizen, for a glimpse of the conflict seldom seen through American eyes. Watch the full video here, with the audio transcribed below.
The whole story (transcribed from above video)
For most Americans, this story begins in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. A group of revolutionary university students took over the American embassy in Tehran and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. To help burn this into the American narrative, the news show Nightline was created, with a nightly tally of the number of days since the crisis started.
But to really understand, we have to go back to 1953, which is where the story begins for most Iranians. This was the year that the US overthrew Iran’s democracy and installed the Shah – a pro-US dictator.
In 1951, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh was the first elected official who was appointed as Prime Minister of Iran by popular demand. He saw that the wealth needed to build Iran was leaving the country because over the past 50 years, its vast oil reserves were under British control – at the hands of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later to become BP, or British Petroleum. So Mosaddegh became hugely popular for nationalizing the oil industry and taking back the oil – hugely popular at home, but quite unpopular with the British government.
Britain took Iran to the World Court over the matter and lost. They tried to hit Iran’s economy by blockading the Gulf and halting trade. They tried to convince the US to assist with regime change, but then-President Truman was not interested. However, when US President Eisenhower took office in 1953, Britain was able to persuade him under the Cold War pretext that Mosaddegh relied on Iran’s Communist Party for power.
The newly-formed CIA was sent to engineer a coup, codenamed Operation Ajax. Iran’s monarch, the Shah, returned to power. He had previously been weakened by Parliament – a short democratic experiment designed to limit his powers. After 1953, he returned fully-backed by US and UK power, and the oil was soon flowing under the control of Britain, America, the Netherlands, and France.
The Shah became increasingly arrogant, opulent and autocratic over his 25-year rule. He instilled fear in the population with secret police known as Savak, created by the American CIA and Israeli Mossad. It tortured and imprisoned those who dared to dissent. He crushed all political opposition. Troops were sent to massacre demonstrators. He pushed a White Revolution to modernize and Westernize the country, giving women the right to vote and other reforms. But ultimately, he served the elites, and created a huge economic gap for the poor masses.
Powerful religious leaders saw that he was forcibly trying to rid Iran of Islam, in a country that was 90% Muslim. One of the Shah’s leading critics, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964, Khomeini was sent into exile for 14 years. From abroad, he continued his anti-US, anti-Shah campaign through sermons on cassette tapes that made their way back into Iran and circulated as people copied and shared them.
By the end of the 1970’s, things had gotten so bad, that major protests and the violence that followed were becoming a regular occurrence. The Shah declared Martial Law and banned demonstrations. This resulted in a huge protest, and a general strike shut down the economy. Soon, over 2 million people flooded the public square in Tehran, demanding to remove the Shah and Khomeini to return. And that is exactly what happened.
One important thing to note is that the CIA orchestrated the 1953 coup out of the very same American embassy in Tehran that was later the site of the hostage crisis, right after the Shah was overthrown by popular revolution in 1979. The students were convinced that once again, the US had plans to overthrow their revolution. In fact, US President Carter did send a NATO General to instigate a military coup, but it failed.
Iran and the US had an extradition treaty in force that obligated the Carter administration to return the Shah to Iran as an indicted criminal. The students had 4 demands: Return the Shah to Iran for trial – he had been accepted into America for medical treatment. Return the Shah’s wealth to the Iranian people. A promise from the US not to interfere in Iran’s affairs in the future. And an apology and admission of guilt by the US for its past actions in Iran. The apology never came. But 20 years later, Secretary of State Madeline Albright did acknowledge the US role in Mosaddegh’s overthrow.
So, Khomeini took power in 1979 and instituted a government under Islamic law. Within a year of the revolution, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran without provocation, seeking control of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan region and key oil-shipping waterways. The resulting Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988 was the longest and one of the most devastating conventional wars in a century. At least half a million Iranians were killed. This war further cemented resentment of the US government, as they were playing both sides.
On one hand, they were supporting Iraq, providing money, technology and intelligence, including satellite photography to help Iraqi bombing raids. The US helped provide Saddam Hussein with weapons by giving him agricultural credits and pressuring Gulf states to give him billions in loans so he could buy weapons from Western Europe, China and Russia. The US Department of Commerce issued licenses to export materials for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program. The US continued its support even after learning that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran, not to mention its own citizens to stop an uprising of Kurdish separatists.
But the imperialist tradition also called for maintaining regional balance of power. So the US also armed Iran, not letting any one regional power get secure enough to dominate or to ally with its neighbors, to challenge US hegemony. In this case, it came in the form of the Iran-Contra scandal.
US President Reagan needed money to fund an unjustified war against Nicaragua, but was forbidden to do so by Congress. So, US arms were illegally sold to Iran through Israel and South Africa, and the proceeds went to the Nicaraguan Contras. This allowed Reagan to get around Congress, to support a campaign of kidnap, rape, torture and murder, for which the US was convicted by the World Court for unlawful use of force, in other words, state-sponsored international terrorism. The ruling was ignored.
Khomeini died in 1989, shortly after the war ended. He promised democracy, but essentially, he had become the next dictator. Although he improved literacy and much needed healthcare for the masses, he also imposed censorship, violently crushed political dissent and attacked women’s rights. Instead of the Savak, the people now had the Revolutionary Guard to fear. Since then, Iran has been an oppressive theocracy. Khomeini was replaced by Khamenei, who remains Supreme leader to this day.
In a test of fairness, we might imagine that Iran invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico, and had aircraft carriers sitting in the Caribbean. Imagine then, if Iran had the power to label the US the Axis of Evil, and cut us off from the rest of the world, and then threatened to attack us if we didn’t stop generating nuclear power. What if Iran had overthrown the US government 50 years ago and installed a dictator friendly to Iranian interests and kept it in power for 25 years?
At that point, imagine that Christian fundamentalists, who currently represent about a third of the US, took power and began ruling under Church law, followed by an unprovoked invasion by Canada, supported by Iran and ignored by the UN, in which it nearly destroyed the US. Would it be possible to imagine Iran as liberators? Would Iran be justified in attacking if the US government helped Christian fundamentalists in Canada to take up resistance? Would it be justified to hate and fear all Christians because of the ones that took and abused power in this context?
This is not about good guys and bad guys. Both the American and Iranian governments are working against the interests of the people. But the deadly game of chicken was begun by the US, and the US has the power to end it. We should look at our current policies and actions against Iran, look at some better options, and figure out a way to change the minds of the people running our government and prevent another criminal enterprise that will cost many more lives. It has been done in the past. And if people take action, it can be done again.
The above was transcribed in its entirety from the video unofficially titled, ‘The Untold History of Iran’. Watch the full video above.
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