Having watched the situation in Iran now for several years through to the current protests by the dissident citizens of the country unsatisfied with the election results, I remain as perplexed as ever. Not the perplexity of not understanding what is actually going on as there are enough news sources available outside the control of western corporate media, but the perplexity of a world that ignores the larger context and the longer history of the peoples involved.
Iran is about as democratic as most Middle East countries are. While they do have an autocratic Supreme Ruler based on an Islamic model, their elections demonstrate the passions of the people and their beliefs. Iran is not perfect and does sink into the atrocities of arresting and abusing its own citizens. The current election by some accounts was delivered fairly with pre-election polls from accepted international sources indicating that Ahmadinejad would win with an impressive two to one majority. Official government reports indicate this is what happened.
The election perhaps was not as democratic as the one that elected Hamas to office in Palestine (more on that later), but it was certainly more democratic and open than the fake elections that Egypt holds. Iraq has a democratically elected government, but only at the insistence of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2004-2005 who outmanoeuvred the U.S. occupation administration in demanding it under conditions suitable to the Shia majority.
None of this explains, excuses, or condemns what is happening in Iran. There is enough information - valid or not, justifiable or not - for every proponent to have their say...which is where context and history have their role.
Context - incriminations of history
There is a combination of selective memory and selective interpretation of events when the U.S. looks at its own history. Either through media manipulation, or through the rhetoric of 'exceptionalism', the western view of Iran lacks perspective on both the history of the United States, that of Iran, and of the interactions between the two. President Obama has at least acknowledged that the U.S. interfered with the Iranian democracy when it, in concert with the British, ran a covert operation that overturned the Mossadegh government, democratically elected, in the early 1950s. If that were the sole source of Iranian irritation with the U.S. it might more readily be overcome, but the longer picture involves a longer relationship of involvement in Iran and the countries around it.
1979 - a pivotal year.
The Soviet Union was drawn into a war in Afghanistan in 1979, a war partly instigated and supported by the CIA, the Pakistanis ISI, and the main original source of today's mujahideen fighters. The results are - or should be - generally well known, as the Soviets exited ten years later, the U.S. left, and the various warlords fell to the Taliban under Pakistani support five years later. The western border of Afghanistan is with Iran, who at the time assisted the U.S. military in their pursuit of the Taliban.
Also in 1979, President Carter, much more of a warrior then than his current older and wiser role as an envoy of peace, had to deal with one of the long term results of the Mossadegh overthrow, the Iranian revolution against the Shah. The Shah received U.S. support (and Israeli support), and operated one of the more severe secret police forces - the SAVAK - in the region to quell dissent. He was also in process of establishing a nuclear program. With rising disparities economically within the country and continued U.S. support internally and continued U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the revolution had a natural adversary, an external enemy that continually threatened.
That threat was only reinforced in 1980, when Iraq attacked Iran. This bloody, costly lose-lose situation had all countries with military hardware and information trying their hand at supporting one side or the other, mainly hoping to bleed them both dry, financially and militarily. The U.S., Israel, South Africa, Russia and others all contributed to this military fiasco.
Saddam Hussein made 1979 notable as well. This was the year he consolidated power under himself and the rule of the Baath party. Hussein was provided with U.S. military supplies and 'double use' materials that could be used for either nuclear weapons or chemical weapons. When Donald Rumsfeld, then a special envoy from Reagan, shook his hand in 1983, the fear was that Iraq would collapse from the war it instigated against Iran, leading to a loss of U.S. geopolitical strategy that included access to oil, projection of power (containment of Russia and China) and protection of allies - not much has changed.
Since 1979, more and more disasters have befallen the Middle East, many taking their time to ferment and explode, but all with their roots in U.S./CIA/special operations interference in the region. History would indicate ongoing U.S. interference, and is supported by information on George Bush's signing of a Presidential Advisory in 2007 allowing for CIA interference in Iran - as if they had not already been there and done that. Other forms of interference are the oft-referenced sanctions that have hindered the development of the economy (at the same time being evaded by Halliburton, the billion dollar war profiteer company now operating U.S. garrisons in Iraq).
More recently, the U.S. continues to interfere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (working against its own rhetoric about the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty), Lebanon, and is now trying to work its way into the Central Asian countries where Russia and China have established a loose yet increasingly more formal alliance of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO). The after effects of events of 1979 are still unravelling around us - the "war on terror" started well before 2001.
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