With Iranians voting overwhelming support for a more moderate and more secular government, Americans have been disappointed by Washington's less-than enthusiastic response. Many remember two years ago on January 7th, in an interview broadcast to the U.S. by CNN, Iran's President Mohammed Khatami reached out his hand in friendship to an American public, who were impressed by his openness and erudition. Khatami, who clearly understood Washington, did not mince words over the U.S.' role in interfering in Teheran politics, noting the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's duly-elected government and reinstated the Pavlavi monarchy. Khatami mentioned the negative attitude of the U.S. towards Iran as well as threats against foreign companies investing in its industry. When asked about Iran's support of "terrorist groups," Khatami said frankly the Hezbulla in southern Lebanon were patriots fighting Israel's illegal occupation of their country.
Today, a new generation of Americans watching CNN see college students in Teheran wave anti-American banners and hear the U.S. referred to as the Great Satan. We can blame Muslim fundamentalism, but a look back at U.S.' behavior sheds a different light on Iranian attitudes.
On August 19, 1953, Eisenhower with the CIA and British assistance destroyed the duly-elected government of Prime Minister Mussaddiq, who had just nationalized the British oil company which for years had cheated his people. John Foster Dulles, then Secretary of State, and his brother Allen, head of the CIA, had been employed by Wall Street's Sullivan and Cromwell law firm, which listed the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company as a client. It was the Dulles brothers who arranged the coup, assisted by Kermit Roosevelt. Their crowd of paid hooligans created street riots in Teheran which killed over 300 Iranians and wounded many more. Mussadiq was forced to flee, and the Shah Pavlavi was enthroned by the U.S. Desperate to keep the unpopular Shah in power, our CIA hired our General Schwartskopf's father, who, with the help of Israel's Mossad, formed the hated Savak, a secret police which tortured and terrorized the Iranians for years.
Washington then introduced a bloated and corrupt American bureaucracy, encouraging the Shah to spend billions of oil money on military hardware he didn't need while his people starved. Faced with increasing social unrest, the Shah responded with military retaliation which on Black Friday killed thousands in Teheran's streets. Our CIA intercepted communications sent to Washington from Americans critical of our policies. We thus alienated two generations of Iranians, setting the stage for their revolution which dethroned the Shah and returned the Ayatollah from exile. The so-called hostage crisis followed.
President Carter, confused by conflicting advice from his staff, made several critical errors. First, our President's call to the Shah after Black Friday, offering his support, was interpreted by Iranians as U.S. opposition to their Revolution.
Then, after Iran rallied around the returned cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, Carter blundered by making no effort for over eight months to contact Khomeini's new government, and against the advice of some of his advisors, Carter later admitted the Shah to the U.S. for treatment of his cancer. Less than two weeks after the Shah's arrival here on November 4, 1979, 500 students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, taking 61 Americans as hostages. The rest is history.
In the mid-1990s, President Clinton joined Congress to isolate Iran economically, punishing companies and countries which trade with that country. This policy of containment was voiced in a 1993 Washington speech by Martin Indyk-a Zionist Jew advisor to Prime Minister Shamir in Tel Aviv before he came to the U.S. An Australian, Clinton gave him instant U.S. citizenship. Indyk, Clinton's appointee on Middle East affairs, not only angered our European friends, but lost American business billions in potential contracts with Khatami's country. CONOCO's multi-billion oil deal, cancelled by Clinton at Edgar Bronfman, Jr.'s demand, was picked up by France's TOTALE. We also lost the multi-million contract to rebuild Teheran's airport, lost contracts to modernize Iran's railway system, and lost the chance to bid on a subway system in Iran's capital.
Our Congress and Senate recently passed a bill to punish countries supplying nuclear or other "sensitive technology" to Iran, and even offered Russia $1 billion in aid to stop reprocessing nuclear fuel and quit their nuclear assistance. We pressure China to keep nuclear know-how from Khatami's people who want atomic electric power, but support identical nuclear reactors for North Korea. Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so her facilities are open to international inspection. We anger Russia, China and other allies with our bullying, but turn a blind eye to Israel's secret nuclear arsenal. While we keep Iran at arm's length, Russia nuclear engineers are building Khatami's people that $800 million nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Gulf.
While we treat Iran as a terrorist state, the Soviets in January licensed Iran to manufacture Knokurs, an effective anti-tank missile, and in a $4 billion arms deals, will equip Iranian forces with Russian tanks, military aircraft, diesel submarines and air defense systems. According to the March Middle East International, Russia is about to license Iran to assemble the Tupolev Tu-334 jet airliner in a deal worth around $3 billion.
Meanwhile, last week our state Department's Albright, in a policy speech before the American-Iranian Council, expressed regret for American's meddling in Iran affairs, including our coup which placed the Shah on their throne. Albright may release some of the $10 billion in Iran's overseas funds frozen by Washington since the hostage crisis in 1979, and make it easier for Iranian diplomats and athletes to enter the U.S. Albright will not lower our trade barriers against Khatami's people except to permit a few luxury items for the U.S. wealthy to enter here: Persian carpets, caviar and pistachios; the latter will carry a 300% tariff, discouraging to the average American buyer.
Khatami's success in bringing Iran into the modern world will depend to some extent on the U.S. Our present policy of economic and political isolation with its resulting social hardships may even return the Muslim extremists to power. As Edward L. Morse, Carter's and Reagan's advisor on international energy stated back in 1998: "Teheran is opening its doors.... We should support...the larger objective of a more liberal and interconnected and open world." (New York Times)