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Monday, February 14, 2005

Iranian pain

Posted by: Hammer / 12:09 PM

The EU wants us to get involved in negotiations with Iran:
But Mr Fischer suggested that sanctions could strengthen hardline elements in the Iranian government and weaken democrats. "Iran is not Saddam Hussein," he said. "We have there a contradictory mixture of very dark elements and democratic elements."

But his appeal appeared to fall on deaf ears. Members of the US Congress attending the conference, notably the Republican senator John McCain, who called Iran a "long-standing sponsor of international terrorism", said they had little faith in the EU's diplomacy.

Hammer was barely big enough to drive a two penny nail home when he got down on his knees to pray for the American ostriches in Iran. A very patient mother explained the difference between hostages and ostriches. Hammer should've been allowed to sit closer to the television so that he could hear better.

Since that first lesson, I've learned little about Iran, other than that Iran is, as McCain says, a long -standing sponsor of terrorism.

All the Shah's Men explains why. (Caveats: I've read one book on Iran. I'm entirely unexpert in the area. I'm in no position to judge the merits of the book's arguments, so I will only attempt to set out what few facts I believe to be salient and true.)

In 1951, Iranian prime minister Mossadegh attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. This angered the British, which held major oil concessions in Iran. For two years Britain pressured Mossadegh to allow British interests to resume oil production. Mossadegh steadfastly refused. President Truman attempted to broker a deal between Britain and Iran to no avail. In 1953, with Eisenhower now President, the United States, at Britain's urging, overthrew prime minister Mossadegh and reinstalled the Reza Shah to power. Reza Shah ruled as a tyrant for 25 years with support from the United States. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini took power after the Iranian revolution. Prior to the 1953 coup, Iranians generally viewed the United States favorably. By 1979, however, Iran was bitterly anti-American because of United States involvement in the 1953 coup and United States support for the oppressive dictatorship of the Shah. Anti-American sentiment was further fueled by American support for Israel, generally, and support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.

So, then, to amend McCain's statement slightly: Iran is a long-standing sponsor of terrorism which we helped create by deposing an elected prime minister in favor of a more friendly dictator. My point is not to regurgitate American misdeeds, but to highlight the simple fact that our "long-standing" actions in the Middle East are not above reproach, either. Even our short-standing actions -- say, preemptively invading a nation that posed no threat to us based on falsified and misconstrued evidence of weapons of mass destruction -- contain a few blemishes. Diplomacy should be our first resort, not a diversion before the shooting starts. McCain is wrong to reject diplomatic efforts. What's past is prologue; what matters is now.


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