There's no denying that Iran is an unsavory state. It funds Hezbollah. Its record on women's rights is abysmal. It hangs citizens -- including gay teens -- in public. Also, new evidence suggests that not Libya, but Iran, was responsible for the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.
But, contrary to the administration's claims, no hard evidence exists that Iran ships arms to Iraq. Nor does the International Atomic Energy Agency believe it's capable of developing nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. While only a fool would put such behavior past Iran, as pretexts for war they're at lest as threadbare as those the administration used on Iraq.
After all, why attack Iran now when we didn't in response to more obvious offenses, such as the hostage crisis, the Marine Barracks bombing or Hezbollah's campaign against Israel in Lebanon?
Recently noted analyst Gareth Porter cited a paper called "Rebuilding America's Defenses." Written in 2000, it served as the Neocons' blueprint for the Bush administration's military policy.
They actually admitted that Iran was "more the status quo power" –- in other words, no real threat. Then why obsess about Iran? It seems, Porter quotes the paper, that it wasn't the nukes so much as the "constraining effect" a nuclear Iran would have on the administration's plans for regional transformation.
They expect to achieve said transformation by means of another Neocon catch phrase. "Regime change" though, as Peter Galbraith writes, is "identified with the most discredited part of the Iranian opposition and unwanted by the reformers who have the most appeal to Iranians." Of course, neither can anyone come up with an example of bombing driving out a country's rulers.
In fact, it would require sending in troops on the ground to usher Mahmoud and the ruling mullahs out. Shades of Operation Eagle Claw (the star-crossed attempt to rescue the American hostages in 1980).
Why did Iran impose the Great Embassy Embarrassment on us anyway? What triggered it, if you'll recall, was our decision to admit the deposed Shah into the US for cancer treatment. But the US and Iran have a longer history.
You remember history. It's that stuff that those who don't remember it should and those who remember it too much shouldn't.
The US and Iran's mutual history –- all history, in fact –- can be broken down to two basic grievances that even a child can understand. In other words: He hit me first and it's not fair.
In 1952, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) controlled oil in Iran. At 85% British and 15% Iranian ownership, it sounds like a model for the arrangement the US seeks with Iraq. Worse, the British sought to further leverage their advantage by withholding their financial records from the Iranian government.
In response, Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, nationalized the company -- just Iran's 15%, though. That didn't stop the United States, which stood to benefit from Britain's hand in the Iranian till, from organizing protests to overthrow Mossadeq.
Once reinstated, our designated despot, the Shah, made his country safe for the West again. Today the administration expects Iranians to accept on faith that democracy will break out in the wake of regime change. But we forget that the rest of the world doesn't have as short a memory as us. It was only 50 years that we nipped Iran's democracy in the bud.
In other words, it's obvious who hit who first.
Unjust as that was, another element of Iran-U.S. relations is even more likely to elicit that plaintive cry no parent is spared: "It's not fair." In the words of Iran's President Ahmadinejad, "Justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program too. Then, we can hold dialogue under a fair atmosphere." [Emphasis added.]