WASHINGTON DC – We keep making the mistake of dealing with each new foreign crisis as a distinct and unique event, rather than as part of a historical-political continuum. Here is a sad example:
In 1982, my old friend and Georgetown University Foreign Service School classmate, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, was executed in Tehran after mounting a failed attempt to overthrow Iran’s Islamic Republic.
I cite Sadegh’s death because of the increasingly strident demands by Republicans and some pro-war Democrats for President Barack Obama to intervene in Iran’s post-electoral crisis, and his insistence that the US is keeping its hands off.
Can these legislators really be unaware the US and Britain have spent hundreds of millions in recent years trying to destabilize Iran and overthrow its elected government? Or that Western powers are conducting an unprecedented media and telecom assault on Iran’s Islamic government?
Back to my old friend.
Iran’s former president, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, told me that Sadegh begged the Americans not to show any support for his planned coup. `If you do, we are finished.’ Sadegh’s planned coup against the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had to appear to be internally-generated and have no links to the US or Britain.
Sadegh met with a senior official of the US National Security Council, then returned to Tehran, where he was arrested and subsequently shot for treason.
According to former President Bani Sadr, the US National Security Council official he met was very close to Israel. This official informed Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, of the plot. Mossad then warned the Khomeni government through a third party of Sadegh’s coup. If true, this piece of breathtaking cynicism occurred because Israel was in the process of negotiating the sale of $5 billion of US arms and spare parts to Iran during its bitter war with Iraq.
In spite of trading public fulminations against one another, Israel and Iran were in secret cahoots. Money, after all, is thicker than blood.
Interestingly, Sadegh also insisted senior Republicans had implored the Islamic regime not to free the US Embassy hostages it was holding before US elections. The hostage issue sunk President Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid.
The hostages were released to coincide with Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as president.
One of the dimmer lights in the Republican Party’s current low-wattage ranks is South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, a proud advocate of torture and secret prisons. Graham has taken the lead in demanding US intervention. But how? Washington has no more troops and now has to borrow 50 cents from China for every dollar it spends.
Perhaps the warlike senator intends to dispatch the Goose Creek South Carolina volunteer fire department to smite the wicked I-ranians.
No doubt the good senator could show those turbaned fanatics from Tehran how Americans run honest elections in Iraq and Afghanistan – where opposition groups who oppose US occupation are barred from running in the `democratic election’ – rather, in fact, like Iran where senior clerics bar `unfit’ candidates from running for office. Or Lebanon, where Washington recently dished out a ton of cash buying votes for the pro-American coalition, which won an unexpectedly large victory.
There is very little Washington can or should do in Iran. Iran’s election, in spite of significant but not decisive voting irregularities still appears to have been a victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Think of Florida’s `hanging chads,’ Ohio’s bogus voting machines, and Chicago where the legendary Mayor Daley got the dead to rise and vote for the sainted Jack Kennedy.
Iran has the only fairly honest elections from Morocco to India (except for Israel, whose voting is usually impeccable). The US is in no position to cast the first stone when it comes to democratic procedures.
Iran has been under siege by the US, Britain, France and its Arab neighbors since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The often tragic history of Iran is marked by the British 1941 invasion, the Anglo-American 1953 coup that overthrew the democratic Mossadegh government, and the US/British engineered war with Iraq that inflicted one million Iranian casualties.
The best thing the West can do is stay out of Iran’s internal affairs. The more it intervenes, the more it gives hard-line elements an excuse to brand their opponents traitors and Western stooges. This is why my late friend Sadegh pleaded with Washington to remain mute after his coup.
Iran must solve its own problems. We’ve had enough `nation-building’ in Afghanistan and Iraq. And how can Washington berate Iran for violence after supporting Pakistan’s military offensive in Swat that has driven 2.5 million from their homes and his killed over 1,000?
Americans must not let wishful thinking and animosity toward Ahmadinejad warp their judgment and get them stuck in yet another giant mess in the Muslim world.
Americans are fortunate to have the cautious Barack Obama at the helm rather than those shoot-from-the-hip Republicans, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joseph Lieberman. The bankrupt United States can’t afford more conflicts as it faces a potential dangerous crisis with North Korea.
Obama should stop CIA and other US intelligence agencies from stirring the pot in Iran and organizing armed opposition. These subversive activities could drawn the US into a new conflict for which it is not prepared. Even Israel, which knows a thing or two about the Mideast, is now backing Ahmadinejad.
America’s past involvement in Iran has too often produced fiascos, or worse. In fact, Iran has become something of a curse for the United States. This is one political-historical continuum we need to remember.