Greater Egret

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shifting Sands

One of the most popular liberal tropes of late is that the United States is responsible for the rise of the mullahs and the resultant Iranian fundamentalism because our bad old CIA toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953.

I've heard this from Warren, the resident liberal sage at the coffee shop and also read about it from the likes of ex State Department and CIA employed Iranian apologist Flynt Leverett and his former Penn State crony Dennis Jett.

Jett recently penned an article suggesting that it is the United States that should not be trusted in the current Iranian negotiations because of its past perfidy, Who Should Be Trusted in the Iran Deal?
Iranians, like Americans, have long memories. They have not forgotten that in 1953 the CIA helped engineer a coup that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of their country. And they have not forgotten the reason: at Mosaddegh's urging the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the oil industry, and America wanted to help Britain continue to control it instead. So we helped reinstall a monarch, the Shah, who suppressed any dissent or political development until he was overthrown in 1979, just before the takeover of the American embassy.
I have been thinking of this line of reasoning for several days because I know Iranians who fled after the fall of the Shah and they frankly loved the guy. Some "political development and dissent" they achieved over there. Just ask Jason Rezaian.

Don't ask me why but empirically I always give a bit more weight in these quests for historical veracity to the people who were actually there on the ground at the time, but maybe that's just me. Even so, I have had some nagging questions about our responsibility and complicity in Iran's past history and trajectory.

An interesting article by Josh Gelertner at National Review today reinforces my skepticism. Titled Iran: The truth about the CIA and the Shah. Definitely worth a read.
...With a brutal, American-puppet dictator in power, who can blame the Iranians for turning to the ayatollahs? Well, it’s possible that Argo overstated its case. According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, “Whereas less than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, more than 7,900 were executed between 1981 and 1985. . . . Prison life was drastically worse under the Islamic Republic than under the Pahlavis. One who survived both writes that four months under [the ayatollahs’ warden] took the toll of four years under SAVAK. In the prison literature of the Pahlavi era, the recurring words have been ‘boredom’ and ‘monotony.’ In that of the Islamic Republic, they are ‘fear,’ ‘death,’ ‘terror,’ ‘horror,’ and most frequent of all ‘nightmare.’” Abrahamian also reports that the Shah’s political prisoners had access to “a radio, television set, reading room, Ping-Pong table, and indoor gym equipped with exercise machines.”
...There was no coup. In 1953, Mossadegh was prime minister of Iran; like many heads of state, the Shah had the legal, constitutional authority to remove his prime minister, which he did, at the behest of his ally the United States. Mossadegh, though, refused to be removed, and he arrested the officers who tried to deliver the Shah’s notice of dismissal. The Shah was forced to flee the country. At that point, it looked at if the U.S.’s anti-Mossadegh efforts had failed: The Shah was gone, and Mossadegh remained in power. After the Shah fled, says Takeyh, “the initiative passed to the Iranians.” The man who the Americans, the British, and the Shah had agreed should replace Mossadegh was General Fazlollah Zahedi; Zahedi was a powerful man, and well-liked by much of the political establishment, the religious establishment, and the army. With the Shah gone, and the Americans more or less resigned to failure, Zahedi took over the anti-Mossadegh campaign himself, spreading word throughout the country that the Shah — who remained popular — had fired Mossadegh and appointed Zahedi in his place. Says Takeyh: “Pro-shah protesters took to the streets. It is true that the CIA paid a number of toughs from the bazaar and athletic centers to agitate against the government, but the CIA-financed mobs rarely exceeded a few hundred people in a country now rocked by demonstrators numbering in the thousands . . . in the end, the CIA-organized demonstrations were overtaken by a spontaneous cascade of pro-shah protesters.” Mossadegh ordered the army to restore order; the army took Zahedi’s side, and Mossadegh fled, soon “[turning] himself in to General Zahedi’s headquarters, where he was treated with courtesy and respect. Before the advent of the Islamic Republic, Persian politics were still marked by civility and decorum.”
What floors me is how short people's memories are and their lack of knowledge regarding the general history of the region. Post Ottoman and British empire, practically all the countries in the area were created in a random and irrational fashion, usually with some world power or another calling the shots. This was standard operating procedure at the time.

Read about Jordan, in history ruled by various peoples including Persians, Turks and Greeks. Full of warring tribes, the Hashemites seized power from the Turks in the Great Arab Revolt. Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations awarded Britain the mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain demarcated a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s. A small percentage of the population, the Hashemites managed to retain their rule over a large swath of people, including a huge number of Palestinians. Jordan was not officially recognized as a country until 1946.

Iraq was essentially created in 1920 by the League of Nations after the Battle of Sevres. At different periods in its history, Iraq was part of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate. Iraq became a monarchy in 1921, a kingdom which lasted until 1958 when the ruler was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq created. There were numerous coups and overthrows until Saddam and the Baathists seized power in 1968.

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud who united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud.

The U.A.E. was basically a British principality until 1966, a federation of seven emirates. Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September of 1971. Yemen, the region that once contained the biblical land of Sheba, has an interesting history, a history of many battles between competing tribes and a strong British inclination to manipulate and plunder. Modern Yemen was essentially recognized in 1926.

Morocco has an interesting and ancient history. They were the first country to recognize the United States in 1777. They were caught in a crucible between French and Spanish interests, officially carved up in the 1912 Treaty of Fez.

Lebanon gained independence in 1943, Syria was created after World War I as a French mandate, and formally gained independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945.

Do you see a common thread here? The birth and demarcation of these countries was fluid, dynamic and haphazard. Relatively new principalities, their nascent rule has been riddled with exploitation, murder and fratricide, not to mention internecine tribal conflict. And there are very few candidates for sainthood in the region.

Iranians burning the flag of the great Satan, Teheran

It might make sense to more closely study the time of Mossadegh before we deify and canonize him as well as the Ayatollah and successive mullah's. Turning a blind eye to shiite fanaticism while castigating their predecessors in an area with such a sordid and convoluted history is a fool's pursuit.
"With people's revolutionary rage, the king will be ousted and a democratic state, Islamic Republic, will be established." Ayatollah Khomenei
How's that democracy working?

I have an extremely liberal friend who was telling me what it was like in his native Chile during the latter part of Allende's reign, a freely elected leader who was certainly done in by the Americans.

He came from a fairly well to do family and said that due to inflation, his family couldn't even afford to buy a loaf of bread. Cuban advisors were all over the county, carrying rifles, wearing their camouflage fatigues. He said it was scary and if not the Americans doing the dirty deed, Allende would have been soon deposed by his own people. I guess we will never know.


Anonymous said...

the Sage replies:
Mere tendentious extrapolation to legitimize the myopic opposition to the nuclear proliferation treaty with Iran.If Iran is "canny" enough to deceive the 8 most developed nations of the world, they in a perverse form of reasoning, merit their bomb; notwithstanding the "completion" will result in immediate immolation at the hands of Israel and the United States. In addition the estimated $2.billion of capital investment
(alot Jewish initiated from wall street and equity funds)as $$ has no nationality in today's global finance,
would be destroyed..25% of Iran's population is under 25 and if they had to opt for war vs relinquishing their I phones and secular satisfaction the "prayer mats" at lunch would disappear. Treaties by definition are not based on "trust" otherwise there would be no necessitating of formalized written agreement. The present and manifold opposition and invetrate unilateral opposition of the last 8 years has been comprised of "No" as presently the case.

Blue Heron said...

I wasn't talking about the deal, I was talking about the shah. Did you even read it? Its actually very interesting, the National Review link is anyways. But come on, they merit the bomb if they are good enough to deceive the 8 great powers. That is a leap....