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12 February, 2018

Trump’s State Department spent over $1m in Iran to exploit unrest for ‘regime change’, documents reveal

At the end of 2017, a dozen cities across Iran, including the capital Tehran, were rocked by spontaneous protests which continued into the New Year. What role did the United States play?

Part 9 - Using human rights to promote monarchy

While the US government routinely uses Iran’s abysmal human rights record as a core justification for its anti-regime efforts, its alliance with similarly abusive Gulf regimes like Saudi Arabia – in the name of isolating and weakening the Iranian regime – discredits the idea that US policy is genuinely motivated by humanitarian or democratic considerations.

Longstanding US interests in Iran are candidly described in a 1977 research memorandum published by the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, authored by then SSI analyst and Iran specialist, Dr. Robert Ghobad Irani.

In terms of population, resources, land, and power potential, Iran and Saudi Arabia remain the two principal centers of power in the Persian Gulf area, with Iran clearly being in the leading position. The principal significance of Iran and Saudi Arabia lies in their huge oil reserves and tremendous oil production. The Gulf area contains approximately 70 percent of the known oil reserves of the Western World and presently produces about 30 percent of the Western World’s annual oil supply. The main producers are Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The memorandum goes on to highlight the need for the US to support a specific brand of pro-Western leadership:

Ideally, both the United States and the USSR must improve their understanding of the rapid and complex changes that are taking place in the Gulf area. They should mutually agree to encourage moderate, pragmatic, and farsighted leaders in the area.

That rules out real democracy. The memorandum celebrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, lamenting that his government oversaw “the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company”; and welcomed the “return to power” of the previously deposed monarch, the Shah – which was, we now know, covertly orchestrated by a coup backed by MI6 and the CIA.

According to Amnesty International in 1975, the Shah’s Iran retained “the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.” This was not considered a problem for US strategy.

Iran will remain the pivotal center of power in this area, followed by Saudi Arabia. As such, Tehran and Riyadh, assisted by the West, will play decisive roles in maintaining a promonarchial balance of power in the Gulf region,” the US Army SSI paper said. “As long as these two major regional powers remain moderate, pro-Western, and anti-Communist, the balance of power in the Gulf area will also remain favorable to the West.

This US vision was dramatically overturned two years later under the 1979 revolution.

But the US government’s favouritism toward undemocratic solutions has not waned. In early 2017, the son of the late Shah, Reza Pahlavi, was broadcast into Iran via the US government-funded VOA and Radio Farda, advocating the idea of “peaceful regime change,” through protest and civil disobedience.

Such pro-Shah Western broadcasting offers few if any criticisms of the repressions and inequality of the era, instead romanticizing it as a glorious past.

Pahlavi had previously written formally to Trump to congratulate him on winning the 2016 elections.

It is not entirely surprising then that in the recent demonstrations, many protestors across Iran chanted pro-Shah slogans calling for the re-instatement of monarchical rule, such as “Reza Shah, rest in peace”, “What a mistake we made by taking part in the revolution” and “Bring back the Shah”.

Insight: US ‘democracy promotion’ activities in Iran have pro-Shah leanings which have resulted in many Iranian protestors calling for a return of the monarchy. This suggests that US propaganda has had a degree of success in influencing the sentiments of a significant proportion of protestors.

The Trump administration has adopted an approach to Iran which appears designed to justify a more militarized strategy, aimed at weakening – and ultimately toppling – the incumbent regime. Generating a justification to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal seems to be a core component of this strategy.

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