FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Iranian Distrust of America

Twenty-six years ago this month, an Islamic government replaced a pro-U.S. dynasty in Iran. In the process, Iran declared America its No. 1 enemy.

At the time, I was a graduate student at Fordham University in New York. The students were enraged by the developments in Iran. For one, they were appalled by the cries of “Death to America” that echoed in the streets of Tehran. They often directed their anger at me, an outspoken Iranian on campus.

The recent revelation of secret U.S. reconnaissance missions inside Iran and President Bush’s inaugural speech, which included his promise to end tyranny around the world, brought back memories for me and many Iranians. Those recollections include a coup d’état in 1953 that led to a distrust of America that lingers today.

I was born a few days after America helped overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and reinstalled the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Afterward, my birth was never mentioned without some reference to Mossadegh and America. As a child, I remember being afraid of America.

Later, though, in high school, I became a fan of America, especially its music and movies. I loved Westerns and saved pictures of movie stars. Yet, like many Iranians, I could not shake my misgivings.

As I grew older, these conflicting feelings of admiration and distrust became stronger. For example, I grew fond of U.S. political and social values. But I also realized that America had stolen from me the possibility of growing up in a free and democratic Iran. As a result of the CIA-planned coup d’état, I grew up in a corrupt dictatorship.

When I finished college in 1976, I left Iran for graduate studies in the United States. Unlike today, America had an open-door policy toward Iranians. Visas were easily obtained once a student was accepted to a college. I was among the scores of young Iranians who took the opportunity to further my studies.

Three years later, in 1979, the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. Though Iranians rejoiced the Shah’s downfall, they soon faced the horrors of life under a theocratic state.

When my studies in the United States were complete, I did not return home. Like many Iranians, I became an immigrant in America, upset that it had rerouted my life. Living in de facto exile, I wondered whether an Islamic republic would have come to life had America not meddled in my country’s affairs.

It wasn’t until the late ’90s that I visited Tehran and lived there during the peak of student protests against the Islamic Republic in 1999. The young people intrigued me. They defied the Islamic Republic and its social and cultural codes of conduct. And, even more than my generation, they longed for American culture: Hollywood films, MTV and Western fashions.

But, like my generation, they were keenly aware of what America had done to their country. They, too, were distrustful of America.

In the students’ frequent protests against their government, the youth carried pictures of Mossadegh. Student organizations held memorials for Mossadegh on the anniversary of his death on March 5, 1967. Newspapers and magazines carried long articles about his legacy. Long after his death, the man who was removed from power by the Americans was, once again, a hero and a national symbol of patriotism and resistance against foreign domination. Many foreign observers and journalists have overlooked this important detail.

A half-century has passed since Mossadegh’s ouster and the revolution that toppled the Shah’s government. In 1953, America intervened in Iran as a part of its global fight against totalitarian communism and to preserve democracy in the world. The threat of communism is all but gone, but the plan for intervention in Iran in the name of democracy is still very much alive.

Sadly for U.S. policymakers who think Americans would be welcomed, Iranians can just read today’s headlines to find ample reason for distrust.

BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN is the author of Embracing the Infidel: The Secret World of the Muslim Migrant by Bantam Dell/Random House (forthcoming, 2005). He is a professor of economics at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He can be reached at Behzad.yaghmaian@gmail.com.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail