Before we all get caught up in the
excitement of a new enemy to fear and loathe, could we possibly
consider Iran's perspective on what its been like to deal with the
benevolent West over the past century or so?
When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated following World War I, Iran looked forward to building a modern nation for themselves. But their geo-political location, as well as the unfortunate fortune of sitting on massive untapped oil reserves, meant that they would be subjugated to manipulation by Russia from one side, and by England from the other. The main point of contention was that the Brits thought that Iranian oil was only meant for British profit.
Starting in 1905, the Iranians staged a Constitutional Revolution and established a parliament with democratic representation. Parliament coexisted with the Iranian Monarch, but the people had significant power. In 1925, their was a coup at the top and Reza Shah Pahlavi started a new family line of leaders who abused the rights of parliament and used force to assert their control of power.
Nonetheless, by 1951, the parliament was invigorated by the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was pushing for nationalization of the oil fields and for expanding the rights and liberties of the common people. The Shah tried to dismiss the prime minister, but popular demonstrations in the streets were so large and determined that the Shah backed down and re-instated Mosaddegh. At long last, it looked as though a champion of the Iranian people was going to get a chance to see his policies through, for better or worse, without being thwarted by a despotic Shah.
However the British and American government quickly engineered a coup d'etat, installed a prime minister who would aceed to Britain's oil needs and re-invigorated the nearly neutralized Shah who retaliated by terrorizing his people with a vengeance. For more than two decades, Iranians lived under a brutal regime that routinely tortured and murdered political opponents. By 1979, unrest and discontent with the Shah had reached such a pitch that the conditions were ripe for a peoples' revolution, and the Iranians had one. The conservative Shi'i opposition led the revolution and their new government held a deep grudge against the U.S. for the 1953 coup and its support of the Shah.
And the Iranian people, instead of getting a chance to pick up the pieces of their interrupted democracy, instead faced another regime of ideological despotism, this time by the ruling mullahs.
In spite their bad relations, the U.S. supported Iran in its ghastly and costly war with Sadaam Hussein's Iraq. But when it looked as though Iran might win, the U.S. showed its true colors and gave Sadaam the assistance he needed to push back the Iranians and sue for peace.
Fast forward to the 1990s and you hear George Bush the Lesser declaring Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, to be a member of a newly minted club of really bad guys, the Axis of Evil. Doubtless, Iranians wondered what that designation would mean.
They soon found out when Iraq, which had no nuclear program, or indeed any weapons of mass destruction was invaded by the American military. Over a million people were devastated by death and injuries. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless and made refugees. Cities and infrastructure were destroyed. The political system was rearranged to try to serve American interests but it has failed to serve anyone's interests, including the Iraqi peoples'. And when the Iranians reached out to the Iraqis after the invasion, they were told by the American government to back off and mind their own business. Never mind that Iran and Iraq border each other and that Iraqi refugees were streaming into Iran, this was an American operation and Iran had no role to play.
North Korea however, has had a different level of Axis membership. Since they were able to successfully detonate a couple of nuclear explosions before the U.S. could decide to invade, they got a free pass for a number of Great Game moves. Even if they provoke their neighbors by launching missiles over their heads or shooting their border patrols, North Korea only gets punished by having to pretend to talk about negotiating until America sends them some more aid money. When it comes to rogue nations, North Korea is the pampered class much like the Wall street criminals who have profited so nicely from their criminality.
What sort of lesson would you draw from watching the respective fates of Iraq and North Korea? What path might a country take if it wanted to be free from interference from the United Sates? India and Pakistan have reached greater international status since they became nuclear powers. Who has more sovereign power and U.S. support; nuclear armed Israel, or the militia-backed Palestinians?
This leaves out entirely the argument that that any sovereign nation should have the right to develop its own energy resources. At the same time that America's energy policy is gung-ho for more nuclear power, the U.S. and its allies have decided that Iran does not have the sovereign right to develop its own nuclear power.
Americans seem to be stunned that Iran is not willing to do exactly what we tell them to do. We can't believe their pigheadedness and animosity towards us. We can't understand why they wouldn't trust our good intentions. But if we continue to see Iran through a self absorbed and historically inaccurate lens, we risk allowing our war addicted leaders to lie this nation into another ill conceived, immoral and devastating conflict. We owe it to ourselves as much as we do to the Iranians to stand up to the war mongering and fear mongering and say NO to any more military conflicts based on the interests of the ruling class.