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Return to Iran? Popular Uprising, Inc.



I visited some friends over the Memorial Day weekend whose television is all too often tuned to FoxNews. As you might guess, our views on foreign affairs and the economy are not very similar. Fortunately, we spent most of our time working, drinking beer and watching the Red Sox play baseball. However, I did sit through a Memorial Day morning FoxNews narrative that concerned the increasing verbal attacks by the U.S. regime against the country of Iran. What began as a hint that Iran might be harboring Al-Queda terrorists has now become an ever more inclusive accusation that the country is supporting the activities of this organization. In addition, according to the Pentagon, the Iranian government is actively involved in “destabilizing” Iraq. Now, forgive me if I’m reading the news wrong, but it seems to me that the U.S. is doing a pretty good job of that all on its own. As for the supposed Iranian-al-Qaeda connection, it is most likely that if any members of this group are in Iran, it is without the knowledge of the Iranian government (unless they are in Iranian prisons).

What’s really at stake in Iran has nothing to do with al-Qaeda and very little to do with Iraq. However, it has plenty to do with the Iranian government’s independence, its oil, its geopolitical position, and the fact that the Iranian revolution of 1979 was the second biggest defeat for the US after Vietnam. These are pretty high stakes, especially to the armchair bombardiers currently running the show at the Pentagon. Iran continues to insist on its independence by going ahead with its nuclear development. Of course, when any country develops nuclear capability, it makes the world a more dangerous place. However, as my FoxNews-viewing friend noted: Iran sees northern Korea playing the nuclear card and avoiding a US military attack, so why shouldn’t Iran do the same thing? It does seem to change the rules of Washington’s imperial game. Indeed, it even lowers Mr. Rumsfeld’s bombast level-not an easy task for a man who loves to hear himself talk as much as Rummy does.

Nonetheless, Rumsfeld continues to issue threats to various Shi’a factions in Iraq whose leaders spent years of exile in Iran and only returned after Saddam’s government fell. In the mind of Rumsfeld, the very fact that these leaders spent their exile in Iran is reason enough to conclude that they are agents of the theocratic government there. In the same manner that the U.S. government saw all national liberation movements that included communists and socialists after World War Two as being agents of the Soviet Union, Washington now sees all Islamic movements (no matter what their politics) as agents of Iran or al-Qaeda. It doesn’t matter if this is true right now, for as long as the American population believes it to be true, the empire builders will act as if it is, eventually creating a situation where the truth will fit the lie. In other words, all those organizations in resistance to U.S. domination and working towards some kind of Islamic representation in countries around the world with large Islamic populations will be under the wing of the extremists or only the extremists will remain. One might look at the history of the Palestinian resistance movement for an example of how this scenario unfolds.

FoxNews had a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran on during their program who spoke about the nuclear program in Iran. It was apparent from what he said that he knew no more about the program than what he had read in U.S. newspapers. In other words, he spoke mostly in generalizations and suppositions. What was curious about his presence on the program, however, is that this man represents an organization that is not known for its fondness of the United States. Indeed, some of its members are armed guerrillas who are rumored to have taken money and arms from Saddam Hussein’s regime. One wonders if FoxNews were unaware of this connection or just couldn’t find someone who represented a view more identical to theirs and the Bush regime. Say, perhaps, the son of the deposed and dishonored Shah Reza Pahlavi, Reza Pahlavi the next. According to the May 27, 2003 issue of the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper, Washington has been promoting this fellow despite the fact that he has no credibility among the overwhelming majority of Iranian “pro-democracy” groups, much less the rest of the Iranian people.

Like the Bush administration, I would like to see a popular uprising in Tehran. However, unlike the Bushites, I would like to see that the resultant government be one that the Iranian people put in place themselves without any CIA “help.” Although most Americans don’t know or remember, the Iranian revolution that culminated with the Shah’s exit in January 1979 was not just a religious uprising. It was a revolution that was the result of all sorts of organizations determined to overthrow the Shah and his puppet masters in D.C. Some were socialist and communist in nature, some were Islamist progressives, some were bourgeois democrats, and some were followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Some were students, some were workers, some were peasants, some were religious and some weren’t. Unfortunately, in the vacuum that followed the Shah’s hasty exit, the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini were able to consolidate their power and, in the months that followed, tighten their control on the reins of power. Since those years, the movement for a non-theocratic Iran that is not beholden to the United States or any other power has grown, although it remains for the most part underground due to the strength of the ruling clerics’ security forces.

So, a change in Tehran’s government would be great if the Iranian people bring it about. However, the United States government and its subsidiaries should have no role in any such endeavor. Just as in Iraq, Washington has no real interest in any popular government in Iran unless it is a government that does Washington’s bidding (which would mean it probably wouldn’t be that popular). Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool. After all, it was Washington that thwarted the first popular uprising in Iran after World War Two. How? First, by forcing the popularly elected Mohammed Mossadegh to step down in 1952 because of his enforcement of the laws nationalizing Iran’s oil and, then, when the Iranian people revolted against Mossadegh’s forced resignation and placed him back in power, by organizing a coup in 1953 that put the Shah in complete control. The Shah then began his 25-year reign of terror that saw the Iranian oil industry (and the Pahlavi family’s wealth) expand, the Iranian military and police budget grow to obscene proportions, and most of the Iranian people’s poverty increase. As for the second popular post WW II uprising of the Iranian people-it is enough to say that it was against the Shah. Consequently, Washington had nothing to do with encouraging it. Indeed, according to then national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Pentagon considered using military force to prevent it. Since then, Iran has rarely been in Washington’s favor, even when it was trading hostages for weapons in the 1980s.

When the interview with the Iranian exile ended, the FoxNews guy stated once again as if it were a fact that Iran was arming and helping al-Qaeda. The next story had to do with some confused (or worse) mother who had been arrested for placing her young child in a laundromat washing machine. Mercifully, it was time for a beer run. That was the best news of the day so far.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at:


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at:

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