Friday, September 28, 2012

Creation: The Islamic Republic of Iran

            From the immortal kings of Persia who did battle with the Greeks and Romans to the conquest of the Persian Empire by Islamic forces, Iran or as some call it Persia has been at the forefront of history for some time now. In the 21st century Iran or as it prefers to be called now a days, The Islamic Republic of Iran is again at the forefront of history. The Islamic Republic is a strange hybrid of theocracy and republican style government and plays a crucial role in the Middle East. Aside from being a large oil producer, it is also a large financial supporter of renowned terrorist groups that lurk in the Middle East including, but not limited to HAMAS of Gaza and Hezbollah of Lebanon[1]. To make matters worse the Iranian government has begun to enrich uranium in what they say will be purely for peaceful purposes, but what American and Israeli officials fear will be used to build the dreaded nuclear bomb. The scary part is that America and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, meaning that there is no one on one talks' going on to quell the situation. This is where a lack of understanding on the average American’s part comes into play. On the 24/7, news networks and in the daily newspapers American’s are constantly reminded of the threat Iran poses (it is a valid threat) and how the Iranian government is mistrustful of Americans. American’s are exposed to several instances in which their fellow citizens are arrested in Iran and accused of being spies[2], and constantly see statements released by Iranian government officials stating that America is responsible for such and such event.[3] Aside from pushing the modern day issues Iran and America have the media constantly pushes the historical issues as well by constantly reminding Americans that in 1979 the Islamic Republic of Iran was born and one of its first actions was to sack the American embassy and hold its employees hostage for 444 days.  It is no wonder that a slight majority, 58%, of American’s support any military action against Iran.[4]

            Nevertheless, why is Iran like this? Why is it suspicious of all American’s? Why, does the Iranian government have such an anti-Western stance? Did the Iranians in 1979 attack Americans due to their (the Iranians) barbaric nature? Does it have to do with the fact that Iran is a theocratic republic that hinders freedom, while we the United States are democratic, civilized, and enlightened?  No. The reason for this hate and suspicion that Iran harbors for America is not due to any hatred for American freedoms and values. The answer lies in our historical relationship with Iran, come let us go on a trip!

             Let us take a step back, the time period we are going to look at is the 1950’s. After World War II the United States emerged a democratic super power, Iran stayed as a constitutional monarchy led by a man named the Shah. A tyrant at best, he did not embody the democratic freedoms America values so dearly, yet this man and his tyrannical regime were closely allied with the United States for one reason and one reason only, oil! Iran was home to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now known as BP.[5] This massive oil company, controlled by the British, allowed the British and the American’s to power their war machines during and after WWII. The downside was that the Iranian people were not receiving a fair share of the profits, yet the Shah and his associates were reaping the benefits of this relationship. This did not play out so well with the Iranians. In 1951 a Prime Minster by the name of Mossadegh, was popularly elected by the people of Iran. Along with a supportive parliament, Mossadegh and the Iranians were able to oust the Shah and his associates relatively peacefully and nationalize the Anglo-Persian oil company. This nationalization meant that Iran will begin to reap the profits of the oil company and Britain will miss its most prized Middle Eastern possession.[6]

            Democracy had won out. In 1951 Iran had popularly elected a prime minster, their Islamic and non-Islamic heritage were both secure and new much brighter age was on the rise. Come 1953 after 28 months of a democratically elected government the United States along with Great Britain decided the Iranians were going back to the tyrannical monarchy of the Shah. With the Shah in power, the Anglos had an ally that would bend to their whim, with a democratically elected government the Anglos would have to (gasp) work things out diplomatically! Operation Ajax as it was called was organized by the CIA and used to overthrow Mossadegh, reinstate the Shah and secure American interests in the region.[7] During this military coup the United States did what the United States is always accused of doing, it paid people to support the Shah and stage protests and riots for his return to power.[8] The coup was a success, Mossadegh and his POPULARLY elected government were ousted and the Shah returned to power for 26 more years. Unfortunately, for the people of Iran who did not support the Shah, he returned vigorously. Now he generating even more support from  the United States so he would not lose his power grip. With his increased American funds, the Shah would beef-up his security crack down and ensured that anyone who stood up to him was put down relatively quickly.[9]
            We arrive at 1979 and the hostage crisis involving Americans and young Iranian Islamists at the American embassy. For 444 days, men and women of the American embassy were held hostage during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah (for the second time) and installed an Islamic Republic. This time instead of a democratically run government we see the emergence of a theocracy run by Ayatollahs’ and hardliner Islamists. This new government was and still is vehemently anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western overall. American’s exposed to Iran now a days’ only see a crazy backwards society that is run by a right-wing religious party. This is somewhat true, a right wing religious group controls Iran, but when looking at the big picture we see that Iran did not become this anti-Western, religious theocracy on its own. It had help along the way. 26 years of American-backed Shah tyranny helped fuel the hatred toward the US. The fact that the American government interfered with internal Iranian politics before means they will do it again in the eyes of those who control Iran today. So any anti-government protest or event is a sign of American interference, making life for those who want to see Iran run democratically very difficult. Any American organization cannot be trusted due to what they might do. The memories of the 1953 Coup that America funded and participated in is still fresh in the minds of the Iranian leaders that run the country today. America severed ties with the people of Iran in 1953 when they backed the tyrant over democracy setting the stage for radical Islamists to fight against the Shah and push for a religious government. Now in 2012 we are dealing with a product of that decision, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its geopolitical ambitions.


[6] U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran by Mark J. Gasiorowski (Cornell University Press: 1991) p. 59. ISBN 978-0-8014-2412-0
[7] Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.xiv
[8] Zulaika, Joseba (2009). Terrorism: the self-fulfilling prophecy. University of Chicago Press. p. 139.
[9] Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003.

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