A Dangerous Liaison

In the 1979 Revolution in Iran the liberal forces made a fatal mistake: they adopted the old dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and allied themselves with just about every force that opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah. The result was helping to replace one form of despotism for another: monarchy for theocracy.  A similar mistake seems to be made today. Many liberal elements are once again allying themselves with anyone who opposes the current regime in Iran, including the same “Western” countries that nourished the despotic rule of the shah in the first place.

For decades these countries, particularly the US and Israel, helped the shah to deprive Iranians of their most basic rights and freedoms. With the assistance of these countries, the demented despot silenced all opposition to his rule, built and expanded his notorious secret police, made his opponents disappear, and filled Iran’s dungeons, particularly the infamous Evin prison that is still in use, with political prisoners. He had them tortured, mutilated, and executed. The US, Israel and their allies, had no problem with these violations of basic human rights in Iran as long as the “son of a bitch” was “their son of a bitch” and made them a partner in the plunder of the wealth of the nation.

Afterward, these same countries gave us the dual containment policy that helped Saddam Hussein start one of the longest wars in the 20th century, the Iran-Iraq War. They closed their eyes to Saddam’s crimes and even assisted him in his criminal acts. With their help, the butcher of Baghdad killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people by deploying chemical agents in the war, bombing civilians and laying cities to waste. The West had no problem with Saddam Hussein as long as he was their “son of a bitch.” But once the Iraq-Iran War ended and Saddam tried to become a free agent, the US, Israel and their allies gave us the first invasion of Iraq and the subsequent inhumane sanctions against the country, which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Then they brought about the second invasion of Iraq, the “shock and awe,” indiscriminate bombing of the civilians, sadistic and horrendous treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the savagery in Fallujah, more death, destruction, and mayhem. Then Israel, that “only democracy in the Middle East,” and its Western allies, gave us the brutal war against the helpless Lebanese and the massacre in Gaza.

Has all this been forgotten? Have the liberal Iranian forces lost their memory? Are they suffering from historical amnesia? Indeed, the behavior of some of the supporters of the Iranian “Greens” leaves one with no choice but to conclude that they are either experiencing a memory loss or are amazingly ignorant. For example, according to The Washington Post, on November 2, 2009, “Ataollah Mohajerani, who has been a spokesman in Europe for presidential candidate-turned-dissident Mehdi Karroubi, came to Washington to address the annual conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.” True, according to the report, Mr. Mohajerani’s talk, which included such things as “a rehashing of U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup in Tehran,” did not exactly please his audience. But why would a supporter of the Iranian “Greens” appear before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) crowd in the first place? Doesn’t he know what WINEP represents? Has he no idea that this “institute” is a “think tank” affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)?  Is he not aware that AIPAC is the Israeli fifth column in the US, which, in spite of formulating US foreign policy in the Middle East, is caught every few years in the act of espionage? Is he ignorant of the fact that AIPAC-WINEP has been underwriting every sanction act against Iran since the early 1990s? Is he unaware that AIPAC-WINEP gave us Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and associates, the Bush era architects of the genocidal war in Iraq? Does he not know that AIPAC-WINEP has brought us Dennis Ross and associates, the architects of the Obama era policy of “tough diplomacy,” a policy that was intended to bring nothing but more sanctions against Iran and, possibly, a war?  Is he not aware that AIPAC-WINEP’s interest in Iran stops at the doorstep of “Eretz Israel” and has nothing to do with democracy or human rights in Iran? How forgetful or ignorant can a supporter of the cleric Karroubi be?

Many supporters of Mir Hussein Mossavi have also shown either memory lapses or complete ignorance. Among these is Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an exiled filmmaker. On November 20, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that during his visit to Washington “Mr. Makhmalbaf, who was the campaign spokesman for the Iranian presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi,” called for “President Barack Obama to increase his public support for Iranian democrats and significantly intensify financial pressure on Tehran’s elite military unit, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.” According to the report, “Makhmalbaf said the Iranian opposition movement supports targeted economic sanctions.” He was quoted as saying: “We need certain sanctions that put pressure on the government but not the people. . .  But they must be done quickly, or they won’t have an impact.” He was further quoted as saying: “We definitely want Obama to say he supports democracy. . .  If he doesn’t say that, he will lose his support in Iran.” The same report, but even more elaborate, appeared on “Time.com” on November 23, 2009, under the heading “Iran’s Green Movement Reaches Out to U.S.”

Has Mr. Makhmalbaf ever read an in-depth book on the history of US foreign policy? Does he know how foreign policy is made in the US? Does he think that such policies are actually made by the US president? Does he believe that since President Obama’s color of skin is dark and his IQ, compared to his predecessor, is above room temperature, the US policy toward Iran would be any different?  Has he ever studied the institutions or lobbies that make US foreign policy?  Does he know who the US friends in the Middle East are? Can he name one “democrat” among them? Why does he think that the US, with its very dark history in the Middle East, particularly in Iran, can bring about, or even support, democracy in Iran?

Makhmalbaf’s knowledge of history of the US foreign policy is only matched by his knowledge of unilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran. He certainly has not studied the 30-year old sanction policy of the US toward Iran. He does not seem to know that numerous economic sanctions levied against Iran have always been “targeted.” They were targeted, for example, against Iran wining the Iran-Iraq War. Or they were targeted against Iran helping the Palestinians. They have even been targeted numerous times against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), both in terms of US unilateral sanctions and multilateral sanctions. Makhmalbaf does not appear to have actually read the text of any sanction laws or resolutions passed against Iran—such as United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737, 1747, and 1803— to see who the targeted individuals or companies are. He does not seem to know how these sanctions work and how, even though specifically “targeted,” they bring about severe economic hardship for ordinary people in Iran and kill and injure fellow Iranians because, due to the inability to procure spare parts, the dilapidated planes are unsafe and prone to crash.

Mr. Makhmalbaf could, of course, be forgiven for his short memory or lack of knowledge. After all, he is a filmmaker and not a policy analyst. One, however, cannot forgive the liberal Iranian professors in exile who show as much ignorance as the non-academic supporters of the “Greens.” Many of these academics appeal to Obama to bring democracy to Iran, to support the “Greens,” or to confine US sanctions to those “targeted” against IRGC. These same professors, who once opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah, now sign indiscriminately every harebrained petition that is put out in the name of supporting democracy in Iran. Their names often appear next to the neoconservative monarchists from such “think tank” joints as the Hoover Institute. They write editorial pages for the same outlets that gave us the likes of Judith Miller and David Gordon, the infamous “journalists” who pushed for the genocidal war in Iraq. They scramble to appear on TV shows for a moment of fame and glory, or to peddle their cheap and vacuous books, or to get another this or that chair of this or that. They are, in other words, the Iranian versions of the Iraqi Professor Kanan Makiya, who sold his soul for fame, only to find himself in shame once his US-Israeli friends had no further use for him.

The same goes for many liberal Iranian outlets or lobbyists that used to criticize the Bush Administration and the neoconservatives for their belligerent and dangerous policies toward Iran. Nowadays, they are bending backward to prove that they are loyal Americans, that they are no agents of the Iranian government, that they support the “Greens,” democracy in Iran and targeted sanctions. They even go as far as giving advice to the US government on drafting more effective sanctions. They propose amendments to already drafted sanction bills! In other words, similar to the infamous Iraqi National Congress, they are starting to act as native informants, paving the way for more sanctions and eventual military actions against Iran.

The Iranian exile supporters of the “Greens” should rest in peace. The AIPAC-WINEP mob and their representatives in the US government do not need any advice in drafting sanctions against Iran, targeted or otherwise. Take for example Mr. Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. He has been as busy passing targeted sanctions against Iran under the Obama Administration as he was under the Bush Administration. In a recent press release of the US Department of Treasury, on February 10, 2010, titled “Treasury Targets Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Mr. Levey announced his latest efforts against the “IRGC and its dangerous activities.” The “dangerous” or “elicit activities” were said to be “WMD proliferation and support for terrorism.” These are the same charges that AIPAC-WINEP has been levying against Iran in general since the early 1990s. But now “Iran” has been replaced by “IRGC.” Mr. Levey’s press release explicitly stated that sanctions by the US against the IRGC are nothing new: “The U.S. has previously acted against the IRGC and the IRGC-Qods Force for their involvement in proliferation and terrorism support activities, respectively.” Indeed, the new sanctions were levied against the “subsidiaries” of a previously penalized construction firm.  The “dangerous” firm, according to the press release, has been “involved in the construction of streets, highways, tunnels, water conveyance projects, agricultural restoration projects, and pipelines.”  Does AIPAC-WINEP need any help from the Iranian exiles to draft sanctions? Is Mr. Levey’s sanction not targeted enough? Is it not uniquely designed to harm a “dangerous” firm and not the ordinary people of Iran?  If not, wait until you see the upcoming 4th United Nations Security Council sanction resolution against Iran.

The historical amnesia or ignorance of some supporters of the Iranian “Greens” is creating a dangerous liaison. We have seen such liaisons in the past, particularly the relationship between the Iraqi exiles, the US government and the AIPAC-WINEP gang. We have also seen the results. Let us not go down that road. If despotism in Iran is to end, it must be ended by the people of Iran, without any help or appeal to those countries who are interested in Iran only insofar as their colonial aims are concerned.

SASAN FAYAZMANESH is Professor of Economics at
California State University, Fresno. He is the author of The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment (Routledge, 2008).  He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno, and is the author of Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy.” He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.