On January 7th, in a 45-minute interview broadcast to the U.S. by CNN, Iran's President, Mohammed Khatami, reached out his hand in friendship to the American people and indirectly to our government. Americans were impressed with President Khatami's openness and erudition. More importantly, however, Khatami clearly understands Washington. As he stated more than once, U.S. policy regarding his country is made not in Washington, but in Tel Aviv. He did not mince words over the role of the U.S. in interfering directly in Teheran politics, and included the 1953 coup directed by our CIA that overthrew the Prime Minister and reinstalled the Pavlavi monarchy; the negative attitude of the U.S. towards Iran's revolution; the appropriation by Congress of millions to destabilize the Iranian government; an ongoing campaign to hurt Iran economically with sanctions both against the country and the companies that invest in its oil and gas industry. When asked indirectly about Iran's financial and political support of "terrorist groups," Khatami responded that the Hezbulla in southern Lebanon were patriots, fighting Israel's illegal occupation of their country. Quite true.
Older Americans may remember that on August 19, 1953 Eisenhower, using the CIA and with British assistance, destroyed the duly-elected government of Prime Minister Mussaddiq, who was involved in nationalizing the British oil company which had for years cheated the Iranians. The Dulles brothers arranged the coup, assisted by Helms and Kermit Roosevelt. John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State, and his brother Allen was head of the CIA. Both brothers had been employed by Wall Street's Sullivan and Cromwell Law Firm which listed the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company as a client.
The first coup (Operation Ajax) attempt failed and the Shah fled the country only to return after the CIA brought its swarm of paid hooligans into Teheran where street fighting killed over 300 Iranians and wounded many more. Musaddiq was forced to flee, and the Shah Pavlavi returned to be enthroned by the U.S. Desperate to keep the unpopular Shah in power our CIA hired our General Schwartzkopf's father, who, with the help of Isarel's Mossad, formed the hated SAVAK, a secret police organization which tortured and terrorized Iranians for years.
As author James A. Bill in his book on Iran-U.S. relations, The Eagle and the Lion, notes, Operation Ajax admitted American intelligence and our military into Iran, made the Shah our puppet, created a huge infusion of inexperienced Americans into that country with a resulting bloated and corrupt American bureaucracy, which, lacking basic understanding of Iranian life and politics, managed to alienate two generations of Iranians. These ill-advised policies set the stage for the extreme nationalism which dethroned the Shah, returned the Ayatollah from exile and produced the so-called hostage crisis.
Amongst U.S. mistakes in Iran was giving American military and their dependents complete diplomatic immunity. They couldn't be prosecuted for crimes in that country. The Ayatollah Komeini, speaking in the Majlis (parliament) before he fled into exile noted, "They have reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than an American dog. If someone runs over a dog belonging to an American he will be prosecuted, even if it were the Shah himself. But if an American cook runs over the Shah, the head of state, no one will have the right to interfere with him."
Our government people and businessmen kept themselves isolated from the Iranian masses. Thus our corrupt administration in Iran alienated the Iranians while our CIA intercepted and destroyed any communications sent to Washington from Americans critical of our policies.
With this blundering American support, the Shah's corruption increased as he enlarged his bureaucracies. His top political posts increased to include 22 ministers, 111 deputy-ministers and 331 director-generals. However, two-thirds of the Iranians had no medical care, while the U.S. sold the Shah billions in military hardware he couldn't use. When oil prices quadrupled in 1973, the Shah went on a "gigantic military spending spree," while the 1975 "joint economic accord" committed Iran to buy $15 billion of U.S. goods. Political unrest increased. Between 1971-75 there were 400 bombings, while some 341 guerillas and armed political groups were killed battling the Shah's regime. As Bill notes in his book, "After watching his troops kill over 10,000 of his own people in the streets...the Shah determined that violent tactics were doomed to fail." Meanwhile, the Shah's own troops were defecting by the thousands, and by 1974, Amnesty International reported: "No country in the world has a worse record in human rights."
Shortly after President Carter came on the scene, confused by conflicting advice from his staff, he made two critical errors. First, on "Black Friday," after the Shah's troops had fired on and killed hundreds of protesting Iranians, our President called the Shah on September 10th to tell the monarch of his support and friendship. Iranians interpreted this publicly-announced message as Carter's support for the massacre and his opposition to their revolution.
After the revolution, in February, 1979, the Shah fled the country. Pandemonium followed and eventually Iranians rallied around the returned cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini. Here again the U.S. blundered politically, making no effort for over eight months to contact Khomeini's new government. Adding to our political guffaws, next came our Senate's Javits' Resolution, condemning the "revolutionary excesses" of the new Khomeini government. This Resolution was triggered by the execution of an Iranian Jewish businessman, Habib Elghanian. Habib, close to the Shah, was one of the three wealthiest Iranians and the only Jew of 29 persons executed that May, but Senator Javits, with a large Jewish constituency, immediately moved to condemn Iran with a Senate Resolution. Widespread anti-American demonstrations greeted this action, with Iranians asking why no Senate Resolutions were made during the Shah's many years of corruption. On October 22, 1979, the Shah and his Empress were flown to the U.S. for treatment of his cancer. Carter, against the advice of some of his advisors, had admitted the Shah to the U.S. As Bill states: "This momentous decision lead directly to a new era in Iranian-American relations-an era dominated by extremism, distrust, hatred and violence.
Four weeks after the Shah's arrival here on November 4, 1979, 500 extremist students attacked the U.S. embassy in Teheran, initially taking 61 Americans as hostages "For the next 444 days, Americans watched in helpless anger and horror as Iranian extremists held 52 of the American officials hostage in Teharan."
President Carter had yet another mistake to make in our relations with the Iranian people and their government.On November 14, 1979, just 10 days after the hostages were taken, President Carter froze all Iranian government assets in U.S. Banks. Henry Kissinger was involved. Kissinger was a consultant to the Rockefellers who supported the Shah and had large interests in the Chase Manhattan Bank where Iranian oil money was kept. It was Kissinger's advice regarding the Shah that got President Carter in deep trouble.
The Clinton administration continues our failed policies regarding Iran. Urged by AIPAC, the Jewish lobby, our President appointed a former Shamir aid, Martin Indyk, first as Mideast advisor and then Ambassador to Israel. Indyk's intent, as he said publicly is, "to keep Israel strong and Iran and Iraq weak." Congress' ill-advised sanctions against Iran and against countries trading with Iran harm us both, and anger our European friends. American businesses have lost billions in potential contracts with Khatamis' country. CONOCO's multi-billion oil deal, cancelled at Edgar Brofman's demand by Clinton, was picked up by France's Totale. We lost the multi-million contract to rebuild Teheran's airport and the contract to modernize Iran's railway system.
Meanwhile, our State Department, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, goes round the world making enemies for us. We pressure China to keep nuclear know-how from Iran which needs atomic power stations for her people. We anger Russia, China and other allies with our bullying demands. As Edward L. Morse, Carter and Reagan's Advisor on international energy stated, "By imposing sanctions, Washington loses a major opportunity to engage....in talks...not only for our long-term advantage but...foreign policy goals. Teheran is opening its doors to re-entry of foreign companies; we should support...the larger objective of a more liberal. interconnected and open world." (The New York Times)
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