“It’s a fashionable thing to do, to talk about bombing Iran.” – Jon Snow
With talks about Iran’s nuclear program still dominating the headlines, with the doves urging negotiation before force and the hawks beating the drums of war, it is important to look back at the history of United States’ relations with Iran, so that we can gain a bit of perspective, which is precisely what today’s media lacks.
The “winners” (AKA the U.S.) have the privilege of forgetting the negative sides of history, but the victims of the winners’ reign do not, and cannot, forget.
As a result, the winners feel that if they are hated, it must be because of their freedoms and their privileges, not because of their country’s past actions. They see the media screaming about Iran’s slogan “Death to America,” claiming that Iran is going to make moves toward “wiping Israel off the map,” so we must do everything we can to stop them.
In a vacuum, this debacle would appear to be quite one-sided: Iran is clearly irrational, psychopathic, deranged, and they must be dealt with by the world’s noble superpower. But the reality is, of course, far more complicated.
The West must overcome contempt for Iran and its people.
He goes on to outline Snow’s talk, calling for the West to interact with Iran, to respect its history and its culture, all the while condemning the undoubtedly cruel aspects of its government.
This seems to me a reasonable perspective, one which would not merit a single minute in the hawkish regions of the mainstream media.
Chomsky continues by citing the inconvenient fact that is often omitted from media discussions of US-Iran relations: Namely, that the US-UK overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddegh, for the hideous crime of attempting to exercise more control over Iran’s vast oil reserves.
The US-UK went on to install the brutal dictatorship of the Shah, who would remain in power until the 1979 revolution.
This history should “evoke shame and deep regret in Britain and the United States.”
And we should also remember that, in the last 60 years, not a single day has passed when the US and Britain were not punishing Iranians.
At first, by installing and backing the Shah, then by supporting Saddam Hussein’s aggression, then harsh sanctions, now the open threat of war, which is a violation of the UN Charter, if any sentimentalists among you care.
Chomsky then discusses Iran’s nuclear programs, along with public perceptions of Iran outside of the United States, Britain, Israel, and so on.
The current issue is Iran’s nuclear programs. It’s interesting to ask: Who shares the Western perception (I’d say obsession) that this is the greatest threat to world peace. That question is pretty easy to answer.
The obsession is not shared by the non-aligned countries (most of the world); they continue their vigorous, outspoken support for Iran’s right to enrich uranium as signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It’s not shared in the Arab world, where the population dislikes Iran…but does not consider it much of a threat.
But the population does perceive threats, primarily Israel and the United States.
With this perspective, that is, a perspective that takes into account the facts that it may be “politically expedient” to ignore, it is useful to ask: Who is the one causing the problems in this relationship?
It is not anti-American, unpatriotic, etc. to suggest that the United States address its shameful dealings with Iran in the past en route to a better relationship in the future, one which shows some concern for humanity, one which does not punish the people, which is what sanctions and war ultimately do.
If Iranians do hate the United States, it is not without ample reason.
As the world’s superpower, it is the United States’ responsibility to use its power for means that are beneficial for the world. No one wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but threats of force (particularly from the crazed Prime Minster of Israel, Netanyahu) will undoubtedly nudge them in that direction.
Chomsky suggests that multiple solutions are available, if we are willing to seek them out, one of which, he believes, is the revival of the 2010 Iran-Brazil-Turkey deal, which the US then rejected.
The point is that there are in fact options on the table that don’t involve punishing the Iranian people, as we have been doing for the past several decades with war, sanctions, and support for brutal dictatorships.
But this story, if history is any guide, will likely play out as usual: The US can’t tolerate an independent Iran which is free from US strangleholds and which is a deterrent to US-Israeli violence in the region. The US will proceed to drum up propaganda claiming that Iran is the greatest threat to peace in the world (this has been going on for years), and the process will descend into chaos from there.
I am optimistic (perhaps naively so) that things can turn out differently this time around. But history has a funny way of replaying itself, particularly because we don’t learn from our past mistakes.
The late Gore Vidal said it best:
We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.