FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The US and Iran’s Quest for Democracy

by Saeed Vaseghi

If the recent US threats and actions damage the propcess of development of new democratic structures in Iran, then it will not be the first time that Iranians’ efforts to build a democratic system has been setback by foreign intervention. The last major intervention in Iran was the US-backed coup detat against the democratically-elected government of Mossadegh in 1953, followed by 25 years of state terror and repression that convinced most Iranians that the US did not wish to see democratic progress in Iran, and gave cause to expressions of anti-US feelings.

It can be argued that Iran has a stronger claim to a democratically-elected government than the US. Iran’s President Khatami has been elected by an overwhelming majority of Iranians for a second term. In contrast, there is some controversy on whether President Bush won a majority of the votes in the US election.

President Khatami’s efforts to find common ground between different or opposing international interests, and his civilising idea of dialogue among civilisations is in sharp contrast to US’s unilateral and militaristic approach to problem solving. The US even rejects advice from its allies, such as France and Germany, on a greater reliance on diplomacy and negotiations.

Furthermore, the label “a rogue State” levelled at Iran (and generally those who dare to disregard the US’s dictates) is a more fitting description of the US foreign policy, given its consistent disregard for the authority of the UN and for international treaties such as the Koyoto and the ABM. The US was also found guilty, by the International Court of justice, of effectively terror against another country in a case brought by Nicaragua.

US-backed regimes in the Middle East are not particularly well known for their commitments to democratic development and human rights. Under the Shah, whose regime was installed and supported by the US, Iranians lived in terror of his security service.

Iran is now firmly on the learning path of development of democratic institutions and a pluralistic culture based on the realities and complexities of its own social traditions and political history. Iran has a long way to go, but it is on the right direction. In Iran there are passionate debates at all levels of the society, and most notably in the press, the parliament, the government, and the state, between various forces of conservatism and the progressive forces of modernisation.

These political forces happen to reflect the texture and the realities of the Iranian society. These debates are a necessary learning process as part of the development of a culture of pluralism and democracy in Iran, a process that was so often interrupted by those who do not consider a democratic Iran in their economic interests.

Iran is currently the only model of a developing democracy in a predominantly Moslem county in the Middle East and Central Asia. Nowhere else in the Middle East or Central Asia, other than Iran, people demonstrate for democracy, because elsewhere in the Middle East the political development priorities are substantially different from Iran. Previously, during the Shah there were not demonstrations in Iran for democracy, because people knew the limitations of the Shah’s police state, and that as a compliant servant of the US interests providing more democracy, and accountability was not in the Shah’s gift.

The development of democratic civil societies is the key to stability in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is not a chance coincident that most of the hijackers who crashed aeroplanes into WTC and Pentagon were Saudi nationals. The Saudis are a major buyer of expensive weapons. Indeed, the perception in the Middle East is that the US and its allies install and support undemocratic regimes in order to continue to stifle progress, create dependency and sell arms.

The Shah was also a major buyer of expensive arms at a time when the overwhelming majority of the Iranians lived in abject poverty and needed basic civil infrastructure such as roads, electricity and health care. This is seen by the population as a form of extortion or taxing of the people of these countries because the trillions of dollars wasted on arms would deduct from the money that could have been spent on civil and economic development. These people know that what they need are schools, universities, hospitals and civil and democratic infrastructures. Instead, they feel that they have imposed on them tension, militarism, and war, leading to a deep sense of frustration, helplessness and ultimately of not having much to lose and then to such tragedies as those of September 11.

The Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt brilliantly observed that to understand the horrors of September 11 one has to understand that the consequence of military-industrial economy is to keep the standard of living in the West high at the expense of the people of the southern hemisphere.

George Bush’s new world order is not any different to the older world orders. It is based on militarism, bullying, creating tension, and demonstrating that there is a price to be paid for disobedience, particularly if the disobedience is rooted in a desire for self-determination and democracy, as was the case with the US overthrow of Mossadegh. It seems what is behind the US president’s recent verbal attacks on Iran is his earlier demand for obedience: “You are either with us or against us”.

The US sanctions against Iran, and the Iran-US mutual distrust are damaging to Iran and to a lesser extent to the US. Most Iranians wish to have a normal relation with the US, based on economic and cultural co-operation and mutual respect. If the US wished to help the Iranian democracy, it could lift the damaging sanctions, and even make a historic and symbolic gesture of apologising to Iranians for the well-documented US-led coup detat of 1953, which was followed by decades of repression imposed by the US-installed regime of the Shah. The US knows that its threats will only lead to an increase in tension and anxiety, further distort US-Iran relations and damage Iran’s democratic development. Iranians need time and space to develop their economy and their democracy and based on their own model.

Saeed Vaseghi is a University Professor and lives in London. He can be reached at: SaeedVaseghi@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail