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According to one theory, U.S.-Iranian relations began around November 1979 when a crowd of irrational religious nutcases violently seized the U.S. embassy in Iran, took the employees hostage, tortured them, and held them until scared into freeing them by the arrival of a new sheriff in Washington, a man named Ronald Reagan. From that day to this, according to this popular theory, Iran has been run by a bunch of subhuman lunatics with whom rational people couldn't really talk if they wanted to. These monsters only understand force. And they have been moments away from developing and using nuclear weapons against us for decades now. Moments away, I tell you!
According to another theory -- a quaint little notion that I like to refer to as "verifiable history" -- the CIA, operating out of that U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1953, maliciously and illegally overthrew a relatively democratic and liberal parliamentary government, and with it the 1951 Time magazine man of the year Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, because Mossadegh insisted that Iran's oil wealth enrich Iranians rather than foreign corporations. The CIA installed a dictatorship run by the Shah of Iran who quickly became a major source of profits for U.S. weapons makers, and his nation a testing ground for surveillance techniques and human rights abuses. The U.S. government encouraged the Shah's development of a nuclear energy program. But the Shah impoverished and alienated the people of Iran, including hundreds of thousands educated abroad. A secular pro-democracy revolution nonviolently overthrew the Shah in January 1979, but it was a revolution without a leader or a plan for governing. It was co-opted by rightwing religious forces led by a man who pretended briefly to favor democratic reform. The U.S. government, operating out of the same embassy despised by many in Iran since 1953, explored possible means of keeping the Shah in power, but some in the CIA worked to facilitate what they saw as the second best option: a theocracy that would substitute religious fanaticism and oppression for populist and nationalist demands. When the U.S. embassy was taken over by an unarmed crowd the next November, immediately following the public announcement of the Shah's arrival in the United States, and with fears of another U.S.-led coup widespread in Tehran, a sit-in planned for two or three days was co-opted, as the whole revolution had been, by mullahs with connections to the CIA and an extremely anti-democratic agenda. They later made a deal with U.S. Republicans, as Robert Parry and others have well documented, to keep the hostage crisis going until Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan. Reagan's government secretly renewed weapons sales to the new Iranian dictatorship despite its public anti-American stance and with no more concern for its religious fervor than for that of future al Qaeda leaders who would spend the 1980s fighting the Soviets with U.S. weapons in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Reagan administration made similarly profitable deals with Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq, which had launched a war on Iran and continued it with U.S. support through the length of the Reagan presidency. The mad military investment in the United States that took off with Reagan and again with George W. Bush, and which continues to this day, has made the nation of Iran -- which asserts its serious independence from U.S. rule -- a target of threatened war and actual sanctions and terrorism.
Ben Affleck was asked by Rolling Stone magazine, "What do you think the Iranians' reaction is gonna be?" to Affleck's movie Argo, which depicts a side-story about six embassy employees who, in 1979, avoided being taken hostage. Affleck, mixing bits of truth and mythology, just as in the movie itself, replied:
"Who the FUCK knows – who knows if their reaction is going to be anything? This is still the same Stalinist, oppressive regime that was in place when the hostages were taken. There was no rhyme or reason to this action. What's interesting is that people later figured out that Khomeini just used the hostages to consolidate power internally and marginalize the moderates and everyone in America was going, 'What the fuck's wrong with these people?' You know, 'What do they want from us?' It was because it wasn't about us. It was about Khomeini holding on to power and being able to say to his political opponents, of which he had many, 'You're either with us or you're with the Americans' – which is, of course, a tactic that works really well. That revolution was a students' revolution. There were students and communists and secularists and merchants and Islamists, it's just that Khomeini fucking slowly took it for himself."
The takeover of the embassy is an action virtually no one would advocate in retrospect, but asserting that it lacked rhyme or reason requires willful ignorance of Iranian-U.S. relations. Claiming that nobody knew what the hostage-takers wanted requires erasing from history their very clear demands for the Shah to be returned to stand trial, for Iranian money in U.S. banks to be returned to Iran, and for the United States to commit to never again interfering in Iranian politics. In fact, not only were those demands clearly made, but they are almost indisputably reasonable demands. A dictator guilty of murder, torture, and countless other abuses should have stood trial, and should have been extradited to do so, as required by treaty. Money belonging to the Iranian government under a dictatorship should have been returned to a new Iranian government, not pocketed by a U.S. bank. And for one nation to agree not to interfere in another's politics is merely to agree to compliance with the most fundamental requirement of legal international relations.
Argo devotes its first 2 minutes or so to the 1953 background of the 1979 drama. Blink and you'll miss it, as I'm betting most viewers do. For a richer understanding of what was happening in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s I have a better recommendation than watching Argo. For a truly magnificent modern epic I strongly encourage getting ahold of the forthcoming masterpiece by M. Lachlan White, titled Waking Up in Tehran: Love and Intrigue in Revolutionary Iran, due to be published this spring. Weighing in at well over 300,000 words, or about 100,000 more than Moby Dick, Waking Up in Tehran is the memoir of Margot White, an American human rights activist who became an ally of pro-democracy Iranian student groups in 1977, traveled to Iran, supported the revolution, met with the hostage-takers in the embassy, became a public figure, worked with the Kurdish resistance when the new regime attacked the Kurds for being infidels, married an Iranian, and was at home with her husband in Tehran when armed representatives of the government finally banged on the door. I'm not going to give away what happened next. This book will transport you into the world of a gripping novel, but you'll emerge with a political, cultural, and even linguistic education. This is an action-adventure that would, in fact, make an excellent movie -- or even a film trilogy. It's also an historical document.
There are sections in which White relates conversations with her friends and colleagues in Iran, including their speculations as to who was behind what government intrigue. A few of these speculations strike me as in need of more serious support. They also strike me as helpful in understanding the viewpoints of Iranians at the time. Had I edited this book I might have framed them a little differently, but I wouldn't have left them out. I wouldn't have left anything out. This is a several-hundred-page love letter from a woman to her husband and from an activist to humanity. It is intensely romantic and as honest as cold steel. It starts in 1977.
On November 15, 1977, at the White House, our human rights president, Jimmy Carter, was holding an outdoor press conference with his good friend the Shah. The police used
pepper spray tear gas on the protesters, including Margot White, in front of the White House. But then the wind shifted. Carter and the Shah ended up in tears as their wives fled indoors. Later that day, White and an Iranian friend were attacked with a knife, chased by spies, and occupied with hiding the wallets of anti-Shah protesters in a D.C. hospital from pro-Shah forces eager to identify them. In December, White was off to Iran to meet with the opposition, including those who had backed Mossadegh a quarter century before. She learned the size and strength of the movement and came to understand its power to overthrow the Shah better than did the U.S. government or the U.S. media. White was followed by the Shah's secret police, SAVAK, during her stay.
By Kourosh Zaibari
Communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, Sam Husseini said today: "With the Hagel nomination, former 'anti-war' candidate Barack Obama continues to appoint individuals to top foreign policy positions who voted for or otherwise backed the invasion of Iraq. This includes Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Robert Gates as well as John Kerry. Those who actually opposed the war from the start have been iced out. In establishment Washington, you get points for being wrong on the most important foreign policy question of your career.
"Particularly noteworthy are the contortions 'reasonable' individuals like Hagel have gone through. For example, when I questioned him in 2007, he said he did regret his Iraq war vote, but argued that it wasn't actually a war vote, couldn't bring himself to say the Bush administration had rigged the intelligence about Iraqi WMDs and gave as reasons for opposing the war things that were known before the war." [Video at WashingtonStakeout]
None of this is reason not to oppose the prowar opposition to Hagel's nomination. But it is worth keeping in mind who Hagel is, including the bit of information that nobody wants mentioned: he owned the company that counted his votes.
A measure requiring the office of the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on the consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will not be included in the FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act.
SEC. 307. REPORT ON CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARY STRIKE AGAINST IRAN.
Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the congressional intelligence committees a report containing an assessment of the consequences of a military strike against Iran.
But the version the Senate passed on Friday does not contain any language calling for such a report. And instead of merging the House and Senate intelligence authorization bills, the House is scheduled to vote on the Senate version without the Iran war consequences measure.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who led the push in the House to include the Iran war consequences amendment back in May, expressed disappointment the measure has not been included.
“While I am disappointed that our amendment will not be included in the final version of 2013 Intelligence Authorization Act,” Conyers said in a statement this afternoon, “the unanimous support for the report language in the House of Representatives shows that there is substantial bipartisan demand in Congress for a clear-sighted, realistic analysis of the very serious consequences that could result from a preemptive military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.”
Various experts and current and former U.S. and Israeli security officials have publicly warned about the consequences of attacking Iran, including the possibility of an “all out regional war” or a situation that would, in the words of former Bush administration CIA Director Michael Hayden, “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.”
The House was expected to pass the Senate’s version of the intelligence bill today, but Republican leaders have postponed the vote.
“Although a report on the consequences of an attack on Iran will not be mandated by this law,” Conyers added, “I strongly encourage the Director of National Intelligence to proceed with this analysis and share it with Congress. The expertise and collective wisdom of our intelligence community is critically needed in this debate.”
Iran War Weekly
January 1, 2013
Roy Hange is a Mennonite pastor in Charlottesville, Va., who has spent 30 years studying Western Asia (the Middle East). He has lived for 3 years in Egypt, 6 in Syria, and 1 in Iran. Hange has taught peace building at Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Virginia. Hange discusses prospects for peace in Syria and Iran.
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By Dave Lindorff
Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By Dave Lindorff
The US is on the way out as a hegemonic power.
That is the primary conclusion of a new report out of the National Intelligence Council -- a government organization that produces mid-term and long-range thinking for the US intelligence community.
Iran War Weekly
December 12, 2012
Iran War Weekly
December 4, 2012
Hello All – With negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program scheduled to resume in 10 days, the role of “Iran” in US Middle East policy is now sandwiched between the politico-military meltdown in Israel and an out-of-control war in Syria. To those who remember how the US war against Iraq was orchestrated in 2002-2003, claims this week that Syria may be preparing to use its chemical weapons are especially alarming. I have linked some good/useful readings about Syria below; for keeping up-to-date, I recommend the websites Syria Comment, War in Context, and Aljazeera (“Inside Syria”).
On Friday November 30th, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a new round of sanctions against Iran as an amendment to the so-called Defense Authorization Act. This amendment, sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), broadens the scope of current sanctions on Iran to include Iran’s shipping industry and ports. According to Menendez, “By passing these additional measures ending sales to and transactions with Iranian sectors that support proliferation — energy, shipping, ship-building and port sectors as well as with anyone on our specially designed national list — we will send a message to Iran that they can’t just try to wait us out.”
This criminal act of collective punishment of the people of Iran is being taken at a time when the existing economic sanctions have already caused a tremendous amount of suffering for the Iranian people without having any impact on nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East.
Iran War Weekly
November 28, 2012
Hello All – The Gaza war, the US presidential election, and a recently released IAEA report critical of Iran will provide the context for a new round of talks about Iran’s nuclear program scheduled to begin in mid-December. How will these factors shape the next round of talks and, more generally, the possibility of escalating or de-escalating the war against Iran? Each of these issues is addressed in the good/useful readings linked below.
Iran War Weekly
November 20, 2012
Hello All – Buried first by Hurricane Sandy and then by the US presidential election, this week the story of the international conflict over Iran’s nuclear program lies in the deep shadow of the Israeli attack on Gaza. Nevertheless, there were some important developments regarding both Iran’s program and the prospects for negotiations, which are discussed in some of the good/useful readings linked below.
Iran War Weekly
November 12, 2012
Hello All – From the time of the last round of nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran (in Moscow last August), the issues surrounding these negotiations have lain dormant under the deep shadow of the US presidential election. With the election out of the way, negotiations are expected to resume next month. During the campaign the Obama team was content to have economic war (“sanctions”) against Iran substitute for diplomacy and pre-empt military action. Now what?
By Dave Lindorff
There is a delicious irony to the story of the crash-and-burn career of Four-Star General and later (at least briefly) CIA Director David Petraeus.
Iran War Weekly
October 29, 2012
Hello All – My hurricane-battered neighborhood lost power last Monday as this newsletter was nearing completion, and electricity and phone line have just been restored. Here, then, is the way the Iran war looked last Monday. Some things may be out of date, but my guess is that most are not. I will get a new edition out asap, as I reconnect with the world.
Trafficking Anti-Iranian Propaganda
by Stephen Lendman
American media scoundrels honed it to an art form. Britain's BBC and commercial media regularly feature it. So does a newly licensed anti-Iranian TV channel. More on Raha TV below.
On US and UK television, truth is verboten. Last January, Britain banned Press TV broadcasts. In a disturbing move without valid reasons, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) pulled the plug disgracefully.
By Dave Lindorff
A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana, showing that young children who are fearful in childhood are likely to be conservative when they grow up got me to thinking.
Veterans For Peace supports the abolition of war. We therefore have mixed feelings about opposition to a particular war when that opposition supports the institution of war making as an acceptable tool of public policy, and when the opposition builds into its assumptions much of the propaganda it should be exposing.
Video: Helena Cobban, Roy Hange, David Swanson, and W. Scott Harrop on Iran, Syria, and the U.S. at War or Peace
Propaganda in the U.S. media is very real. In an attempt to counteract its effects and to offer the Charlottesville public a deeper understanding of the situation in the Middle East, Random Row Books has invited several local experts to give their take on the continuing volatility in that region.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at Random Row Books
Helena Cobban is a British-American writer and researcher on international relations, with special interests in the Middle East, the international system, and transitional justice. In March 2010, she founded Just World Publishing.
Roy Hange pastors Charlottesville Mennonite Church and has worked with Mennonite Central Committee in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. He has taught faith-based peacebuilding courses at EMU and UVA.
David Swanson is a local author and activist at the forefront of the peace movement in America. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to New York for the U.N. talks, David was one of several activists who had dinner with the Iranian president. His most recent books are War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He also hosts Talk Nation Radio.
W. Scott Harrop currently teaches in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Culture at UVA, with Iran as his area of expertise.
Videos by Kathryn
NewsHour botches basic fact about Iran dispute
In an October 22 discussion of the foreign policy presidential debate, the PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown stated that "Iran's nuclear weapons program has been a particular flash point."
A few weeks earlier (10/5/12) on the NewsHour, Ray Suarez said that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez had
continued to thwart American efforts on a range of international issues, such as Washington's attempt to convince Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to halt his country's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As most people following this story should know, there is no intelligence that shows Iran has a nuclear weapons program. The country has long denied the accusation, and regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to turn up evidence that Iran's enriched uranium is being diverted for use in a weapon (Extra!, 1/12).
Some governments claim otherwise, but journalists are supposed to convey the evidence that is available--not to make claims that are unsupported by the facts. If there was one clear lesson from the Iraq War, it was that reporters need to carefully distinguish between what is known for certain and what some government leaders claim.
There have been questions about the NewsHour's Iran reporting before (FAIR Blog, 1/10/12). On January 9 the broadcast reported that Iran's denial that it is pursuing a nuclear weapon was "disputed by the U.S. and its allies." The show turned to a clip from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to bolster that point -- but edited out the part of his statement in which he said, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No." A NewsHour editor agreed (FAIR Blog, 1/1712) that "it would have been better had we not lopped off the first part of the Panetta quote."
Unfortunately, these recent examples suggest that the show is still being careless about how it reports the facts about Iran.
Tell the PBS NewsHour to correct its assertions that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
Direct US/Iran Nuclear Talks
by Stephen Lendman
To talk or not to talk. What's sensible is twisted to be complicated. Claiming an existential Iranian threat is red herring cover. At issue is long-planned regime change.
By Dave Lindorff
We know that there isn't much "Hope" for "Change" -- at least for progressive change -- should President Obama win a second term as president.
Even when he had the chance, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, and with a solid mandate from the voters to act on restoring civil liberties, taking significant action against climate change, ending the wars and defending Social Security and Medicare, he did nothing.