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.


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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