Demonizing Iran

1 February, 2019
President Jimmy Carter addresses the American people on the Iran hostage crisis, 1979

Demo­niz­ing Iran Only Strength­ens the Regime While Pun­ish­ing Its People

Opinion by L.Y.

On the 40th anniver­sary of Iran’s rev­o­lu­tion, an Iran­ian-born Amer­i­can attor­ney argues for the Iran­ian peo­ple, but against Iran’s regime and U.S. anti-Iran sanctions.

The peo­ple of Iran have been suf­fer­ing under crip­pling sanc­tions for near­ly 40 years and yet the deeply entrenched cler­i­cal estab­lish­ment has only strength­ened over time. The Trump Admin­is­tra­tion has now uni­lat­er­al­ly backed out of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA) inter­na­tion­al nuclear agree­ment with Iran, cit­ing “dis­as­trous flaws.” They have also imposed the tough­est sanc­tions on Iran to date.

The first set of Trump sanc­tions took effect on August 8, 2017, restrict­ing Iran’s pur­chase of US cur­ren­cy, trade in gold, pre­cious met­als and sale of Iran­ian auto parts, com­mer­cial pas­sen­ger air crafts and relat­ed parts and service.

The sec­ond set of sanc­tions took effect on Novem­ber 4, 2017, fur­ther restrict­ing the sale of oil and petro­chem­i­cal prod­ucts from Iran. This in turn strains the world sup­ply of oil and wors­ens the already very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion for the Iran­ian peo­ple. Since the lat­est sanc­tions were first put in place, the cost of liv­ing has sky­rock­et­ed and the rial fell against the dol­lar at an all time high of 190,000 rials to 1 U.S. dol­lar. The aver­age fam­i­ly income is between 20,685,854 and 40,000,000 rials (the lat­ter assum­ing you have dual income) where a bot­tle of milk now costs 15,000,000 rials. Mean­while, a 2 to 3‑bedroom apart­ment in Tehran rents for 60,625,000 rials.

IF THE AIM OF THESE SANCTIONS IS TO CRIPPLE THE IRANIAN POPULATION WHILE STRENGTHENING THE CLERGY, WE CAN ARGUE THAT THE UNITED STATES HAS SUCCEEDED.

In order to under­stand how we got here, we need to look at the roles played by the Unit­ed King­dom and Unit­ed States. As far back as 1901, Eng­land draft­ed an agree­ment giv­ing itself exclu­sive rights to Iran­ian petro­le­um, set­ting up refiner­ies in Iran and in return giv­ing Iran 16% of the net prof­its. Between 1925–1932, Iran attempt­ed to rene­go­ti­ate the terms of the agree­ment, which proved unsuc­cess­ful. In 1933, Reza Shah Pahlavi secured a new agree­ment that gave the British com­pa­ny Anglo Per­sian Oil Com­pa­ny (APOC) a new 60-year con­ces­sion. The agree­ment extend­ed the life of the con­ces­sion by an addi­tion­al 32 years, and neg­li­gent­ly allowed APOC to select the best 100,000 square miles while award­ing Iran an extreme­ly low min­i­mum-guar­an­teed roy­al­ty. More­over, Iran sur­ren­dered its right to annul the agree­ment, and set­tled on a com­plex and tedious­ly elab­o­rate arbi­tra­tion process to set­tle any dis­agree­ments that would arise. 

Ira­ni­ans were right­ful­ly furious.

By 1941, Reza Shah Pahlavi was forced to abdi­cate by the Allies after the Anglo-Sovi­et Inva­sion of Iran and was suc­ceed­ed by his son, Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi. Like his father, Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi main­tained a close rela­tion­ship with the west.

By 1951, the aggriev­ed Ira­ni­ans vot­ed to nation­al­ize their oil and to expel for­eign rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the coun­try. They elect­ed Moham­mad Mossadegh as their Prime Min­is­ter to cham­pi­on their objec­tive. This of course upset Win­ston Churchill, who unsuc­cess­ful­ly lob­bied Pres­i­dent Tru­man to invade Iran. Eisen­how­er on the oth­er hand was more than hap­py to orches­trate a coup d’e­tat, and in 1953, the CIA entered into a covert oper­a­tion to over­throw Moham­mad Mossadegh and to rein­state Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi to the throne. This lat­er became known as Oper­a­tion Ajax. They suc­ceed­ed and Moham­mad Mossadegh was placed under house arrest until he died. Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi was strate­gi­cal­ly placed in pow­er by the West as their pup­pet and referred to as a “Twin Pil­lar” where he served as a pri­ma­ry guardian of US inter­ests in the Per­sian Gulf (the oth­er twin being Sau­di Ara­bia). While west­ern­ized, Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi ruled with an iron fist. He cre­at­ed the SAVAK (secret police) with the help of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad, which oper­at­ed from 1957–1979. Its pur­pose was to tor­ture and exe­cute his opponents.

Iranians march against Shah Reza Pahlavi circa 1978

By 1977, dif­fer­ent groups of Ira­ni­ans start­ed build­ing momen­tum to over­thow the Unit­ed States-backed monarch. Among them were stu­dents, left­ists and Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tions. Protests com­menced in Octo­ber of 1977 and inten­si­fied by Jan­u­ary of 1978. On Jan­u­ary 10, 1979, Moham­mad Reza Pahlavi fled Iran and 16 days lat­er, Aya­tol­la Ruhol­la Khome­i­ni returned to Iran after a decade of exile in France. He estab­lished the Islam­ic Repub­lic of Iran, des­ig­nat­ing him­self as the Supreme Leader.

At the time, Jim­my Carter was the 39th Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and arguably, the most hon­est and human­i­tar­i­an to date. While he took a neu­tral role and decid­ed not to get involved in Iran­ian affairs (some­thing sub­se­quent admin­is­tra­tions know noth­ing about), his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Zbig­niew  Brzezinksi, Hen­ry Kissinger (one the biggest war crim­i­nals to date) and David Rock­e­feller lob­bied Carter to wel­come the exiled Shah to the US and to con­spire him to pow­er. Carter right­ful­ly expressed his con­cern with poten­tial mob vio­lence against US inter­ests in Iran and refused. By Octo­ber, he caved to pres­sure from the Repub­li­cans and allowed the Shah entry into the US for can­cer treat­ment. The Islam­ic Repub­lic in turn viewed this as a con­spir­a­cy to rein­state the Shah and Khome­i­ni declared “The US, which has giv­en refuge to that cor­rupt germ will be con­front­ed in a dif­fer­ent man­ner by us.” Three days lat­er, a mob of stu­dents over­ran the US embassy, seiz­ing 66 Amer­i­can offi­cials. They released the women and minori­ties, while 52 remained cap­tive for 444 days.

After diplo­mat­ic efforts to secure the release of the hostages failed, Jim­my Carter attempt­ed a doomed res­cue mis­sion to lib­er­ate them. Unlike any oth­er pres­i­dent, he took per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty for the failed mis­sion. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, he refused to sell more arms to Iran, cit­ing their human rights vio­la­tions. Unbe­knownst to Pres­i­dent Carter, G.H.W. Bush and William Casey agreed to sup­ply Iran with more arms in secret meet­ings, which lat­er result­ed in the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment releas­ing the hostages on the day Ronald Rea­gan was inaugurated. 

39 years lat­er, many Ira­ni­ans abroad still scape­goat Jim­my Carter for the rev­o­lu­tion, which did­n’t hap­pen in a vac­u­um and which he cer­tain­ly did not cause. Instead of tak­ing issue with Amer­i­can and British inter­fer­ence, the prop­ping-up of pup­pet gov­ern­ments and Iran­ian lead­ers sell­ing out to west­ern inter­ests, they erro­neous­ly take issue with a man who did not allow the Shah of Iran refuge after flee­ing his coun­try. Per­haps their ill-placed con­tempt would be bet­ter served fight­ing decades of U.S. sanc­tions which have crip­pled the peo­ple of Iran while strength­en­ing its regime. One could argue their anger would be more jus­ti­fied at Rea­gan’s admin­is­tra­tion giv­ing arms to the regime and lat­er sup­ply­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein bombs, which rained on Iran for eight con­sec­u­tive years. Per­haps these Ira­ni­ans abroad, many of whom are edu­cat­ed and well-to-do, can lob­by their gov­ern­ment to cease sanc­tions, which have proven inef­fec­tive in Iran and else­where, Cuba and North Korea for instance. 

As an Iran­ian-Amer­i­can look­ing at the big pic­ture, I sup­pose I can’t help but think that Moham­mad Mossadegh was the only leader of Iran who did­n’t rape his coun­try of its rich­es and only want­ed the bet­ter­ment of his peo­ple when he sought to nation­al­ize our resources. More impor­tant­ly, I ques­tion what the Unit­ed States has to gain and which cards our gov­ern­ment is now play­ing, for we know this coun­try does­n’t act out of mere benev­o­lence. After all, I don’t see how you can sanc­tion a coun­try while beat­ing the drums of war and at the same time refuse entry to its pop­u­la­tion of 81 mil­lion who want to escape the regime you are alleged­ly try­ing to overthrow.

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