In recent days political and other commentators have begun to speculate openly about the role the Iranian government may be playing in Iraq and what its response might be should the US military and its client forces go too far in their assault on the uprising inspired by Moqtada al-Sadr in response to the US occupation of Iraq. According to an article in GulfNews by Youssef M. Ibrahim, Iran already has a couple large militias in country. Ibrahim also states that Tehran would be left with little choice but to engage in the battle for Iraq if the holy shrines are destroyed by the US-led forces in Najaf. These are the most important sites in the Shia sect of Islam, after all, and any Iranian official who claims a religious mantle would have to take a stand on the desecration of these sites.
To underscore this, Iranians took to the streets in large numbers on Friday, August 13th in support of the Najaf resistance and in opposition to the US assault on that and other Iraqi cities. They were joined by thousands of like-minded Iraqis, many who went to Najaf to join in the defense of the mosque and cemetery currently under siege. Although an argument could be made that Tehran is using the opposition to the US-led military operations in Iraq as a means to consolidate support and distract Iranians from their discontent with their own government, the demonstrations seem to support an analysis that Iranians are truly upset about these transgressions on their religious landmarks.
Another layer to the political nightmare in the Middle East is Washington’s desire to remove the current Iranian government and replace it with one more compliant to US plans for the region. Of course, these plans center on the control of the oil in the region. To this end, Washington is constantly negotiating small-time deals with Tehran while at the same time exploring means to overthrow the regime there. Echoes of this seemingly schizophrenic policy can be seen in the ongoing drama over Iran’s nuclear program. According to the international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, Iran is only developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The Bush regime refuses to accept this diagnosis and continues to call for further isolation of the 26169f.jpgTehran regime while at the same time other elements in Washington (most recently, the Council on Foreign Relations) call for trade and other incentives to encourage Iranian complicity in US hopes for the region. Simultaneously, Congress has before it a piece of legislation titled the Iran Freedom and Support Act-a bill sponsored by right-wing Senators Santorum (R-PA) and Cornyn (R-TX) that would fund a CIA-created Iranian opposition along the lines of the Iraq National Congress. If one remembers this piece of recent history, this was the group led by Ahmed Chalabi, Washington’s one-time friend now under indictment for corruption.
Most Iranian opposition groups seem to have little use for this legislation or its offer of millions of dollars. The major objections include the bill’s referral to Mohammed Khatami as a symbol of freedom, insisting that he is just another member of the theocratic regime. Indeed, history bears out the latter perception as Khatami’s legacy extends to the regime’s earliest days and includes his participation in some of the regime’s more brutal crimes against the Iranian people. Other objections center on the Act’s designation of Khatami as someone who the US should not only consider as the representative of the Iranian opposition, but should make him its leader. Not only does this suggestion not sit well with radical elements in the opposition (the National Council of Resistance in Iran or NCRI and People’s Mojahedin Of Iran or PMOI, for instance), but even the more moderate exile organizations like the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR) oppose the bill as it currently reads.
Furthermore, if one uses the Chalabi fiasco as a contextual example, they would see that this bill is not designed to encourage an independent movement to overthrow the theocrats in Tehran, but to create an organization that would install a US-friendly government in Iran. If one continues with the Iraqi model, they will also understand that the likelihood of this CIA front actually finding leadership supported by the Iranian people is quite unlikely. Even if such a leader was to come forward and take the CIA’s money, they would lose a good deal of their credibility in the process (and most likely end up on the outs with Washington, just like Chalabi). After all, Iran was one of the first countries to fall victim to CIA mischief and an eventual coup. No Iranian can forget that, no matter how he or she might feel about that bit of their history.
Let’s go back to Iraq for a moment. Recently, the PMOI was provided a sort of protection by the Allawi regime (under orders from Washington). This caused US analysts to ask if this meant that the US was considering the PMOI as a potential recipient of US funds designated for subversion of the Tehran regime. It also brought up questions concerning the PMOI’s role in countering the insurgency in Iraq. Instead of relying on US media speculation for answers to the PMOI role, I asked a couple of their supporters for their take on the situation. While both insisted that they were not spokespeople for the organization, they both concurred in separate communications that the PMOI has never interfered in Iraqi politics and has no intention of doing so. As regards the questions around the Iran Freedom and Support Act, both sources also insisted (in separate communications) that the NCRI and PMOI have always believed that only the Iranian people can decide their destiny and only they are responsible for changing their government. In other words, it is not up to the US Senate to decide who will lead the opposition to the despots in Tehran; it is up to the Iranian people.
There’s a line oftentimes attributed to indigenous American characters in comic books and children’s stories of the Wild West, which reads: “White father in Washington speaks with forked tongue.” The sentiment inferred here is that you can’t trust anything Washington says or writes, especially when the men and women there tell you that they are doing it for you. As Ahmed Chalabi would probably tell you, this statement remains true today. Furthermore, I hope the Iranian opposition uses it as their guiding principle whenever they are approached by the CIA or any other US agency offering them helping their struggle against the mullahs in Tehran. If they don’t, they are just as likely to end up like Chalabi. That is, chewed up and spit out like watermelon seeds in a seed-spitting contest.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org