The Left and Iran
Because Iran’s leadership and the U.S. power elite each include influential figures who press for dialog between the two countries, we must conclude that Iran is not in danger of a military attack. Conclusion: people of conscience should drop their opposition to a possible U.S. or Israeli attack and instead condemn imperialism’s best ally in the Middle East, Iran. You may laugh, but this is the essence of Reza Fiyouzat’s hawkish argument as he struggles in a recent Counterpunch article to sow antagonism towards Iran. Never mind that the former government of Iraq had diplomatic and trade relations with the U.S. and still was violently overthrown with calamitous consequences. His assessment is the familiar one that we have heard for decades from Iranian Monarchists, who swear that Washington forced out the former Shah in 1979 in order to install a pliable Islamic order in his place.
Such simplistic far left and far right analyses portray Iranians as a nation of simpletons and victims without agency. Missing from Fiyouzat’s neoconservative-style rush to blame the victim is any reference to the enthusiasm of a great majority in Iran, registered in survey after opinion survey, to restore trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S. If Iran’s leadership is indeed eager to welcome U.S. diplomats, investors, and tourists after nearly three decades of estrangement, it is certainly acting with the consent of the governed. With his rejection of détente, Fiyouzat in effect advocates minority rule even as he demands an expanded democracy in which Iran’s left forces would have more room to organize.
What’s more, Fiyouzat argues, mainstream pro-dialog groups, such as the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), are aiding a Tehran-Washington conspiracy to fool and exploit Iranians. His evidence that Iran is, behind the scenes, a partner in crime with Yankee imperialists? Why, of course, it is Iran’s declared but unsuccessful attempts to attract foreign investment. That is proof enough to Fiyouzat that Iran is for sale and advocates of Iran’s national rights, like CASMII, are sell-outs, even if their purpose is to help expose Western double standards. According to this sophomoric fantasy, presumably the nations of the world must all boycott the U.S. to prove their independence! Fiouzat does not explain why Iran should be the first. I suggest he personally set an example by refusing to boost the U.S. war machine with his income tax.
Apparently, journalist Seymour Hersch, who regularly warns us about ongoing U.S. efforts to destabilize Iran, is just another dupe of the Islamic Republic, and so are the other award-winning authors Reese Erlich and Stephen Kinzer, who each spoke in dozens of American cities last fall and winter against a U.S. attack on Iran. The 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement’s repeated declarations of support for Iranian nuclear rights must similarly be delusional.
Ironically, contrary to Fiouzat’s tired claim that Iran’s leadership uses the threat of a foreign attack as a fig leaf for legitimacy, Iran’s Farsi-language state broadcast monopoly downplays the possibility of U.S. or Israeli aggression. Last January, I was asked to leave a televised show on Iran’s Channel Two (I was being interviewed by telephone) after I refused to agree with the host that Iran was safe from foreign attack.
Real anti-imperialists, Fiyouzat suggests with self-righteous rage, should stand by and refuse to take U.S. and Israeli threats of aggression seriously. He conveniently forgets that in 1953, Iran’s communist Tudeh party hastened the overthrow of Iran’s most revered anti-colonial campaigner ever, Mohammad Mossadegh, by withdrawing its support. Tudeh abandoned the prime minister because, it explained, he was too cozy with Washington. Months later the CIA overthrew Mossadegh, ostensibly for his softness on communism! The coup resulted in the executions of hundreds of Tudeh activists, social democrats, and nationalists and ushered in a quarter century of brutal dictatorship that led to the Revolution of 1978-79. The widow of one of the perished, Mossadegh’s heroic foreign minister, Hussein Fatemi, returned to Iran March of this year for a meeting with Iran’s President. Afterwards she told reporters that her husband would have been proud of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s resistance to foreign manipulations.
The centerpiece of Fiyouzat’s attempt to mobilize the progressive left against Iran is Tehran’s participation in regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, too, Fiyouzat is so eager to paint Iran’s decision makers as unrepresentative that he ignores overwhelming support for that policy among Iranians. He assures us that "Western powers prefer an Islamic to a secular government" and "Western imperialists cannot have it any better than the regime that exists [in Iran] now", conveniently overlooking the considerable U.S. support for secular elites against the popular Islamist resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon. Nor does Fiyouzat recognize that Iran’s alliance with Christian Armenia and tense relations with the Shi’i-dominated Republic of Azerbaijan is inspired by Iran’s opposition to U.S. domination in the region.
Similarly, he makes no mention of Iran’s incessant demand, consistent with the wishes of almost all Iraqis, that U.S. forces leave Iraq without extracting concessions. He also fails to mention that Iran’s closest international ally is Venezuela, hardly a U.S. client state. All that seems to matter to him is that the Iranian government is interested in conditional peace with Washington. Never mind that Cuba’s anti-imperialist government is as anxious as Iran’s to have normal trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S.
The obsession leads Fiouzat to lump defenders of Iranian sovereignty with the "realist" wing of U.S. imperialism. It matters not to him that advocates of Iran’s national rights against the West’s intimidation may be motivated by other than blind support for the current Iranian government. He is troubled that Iran has frustrated desperate U.S. efforts to isolate it. On the fifty-fifth anniversary of the August coup in which anti- imperialists acquiesced in the U.S. subversion of Iranian sovereignty, Fiyouzat recommends that the U.S. antiwar community do the same. Fortunately, only a tiny fraction in the U.S. antiwar movement is likely to be swayed by his short-sighted ideology.
Rostam Pourzal is a board member of the US branch of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.