Column No. 226
So the Republican Scream Machine, this time both in Congress and on the airwaves, have been indeed screaming that President Obama should "do something about Iran,” or by now possibly “should have done something in Iran.”
He should be going (or should have gone) hammer and tongs on the issue of the obviously stolen election there. Of course if President Obama had done that foolish thing and proclaimed long and loud about what is happening inside Iran, the Republicans would be yelling at him for doing that, claiming among other things that he is “just all talk and not action.” But that reality just reflects what the GOP is all about: “Just Saying ‘No’ to everything the President says ‘Yes’ to.” And yelling about it too. But you can't really blame them, can you? After all, they have nothing positive to offer.
So let's analyze what previous U.S. meddlings in Iranian affairs have produced, all but one of them the product of Republicans in office and, in all cases the product of Republican policies. Of course one does wonder why the GOPers are so upset with the present Iranian government. After all, I said in a BuzzFlash commentary some time ago, George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad have a lot in common.
For example: Both think they have a direct connection with God. They both fit under Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s characterization of Iran’s President Ahmedinejad as "a petty and cruel dictator." President Ahmedinejad is clearly the nominal head of state of a country that is actually a theocracy. Who is actually in charge in that country has been made plain for the world to see in the last three weeks. A theocracy is just what the hard core of GOP support wants to establish in the U.S. Ahmedinejad and the GOP both view women as second-class citizens. Bush and Ahmedinejad both had/have the power to lock up anyone they want to without charges, without any demonstrable evidence, and without any rights either to counsel or trial, and with the power to torture when, as, and if. Finally, homophobia is central to the policies of both Ahmedinejad and the GOP.
Despite this concordance of policy, Ahmedinejad has been on the GOP enemies list since his election. Just think, if McCain had been elected President (yes, my friends on the Left who are SOOO dissatisfied with President Obama, just think about that one a bit), the bombast would be coming out of Washington thick and fast. This is especially so since a McCain/Palin Administration (how about them apples?) would have had so many negative happenings occurring on its watch that they would be desperate to distract the country's attention from. So, within the limits of actually not being able to do anything like “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” because of a) the sorry state of the military they would have inherited and b) the sorry state of the relationships with allies they would have inherited, they would have meddling away to beat the band. In that light, let's see just what GOP governmental meddling in Iranian affairs has brought about in the past. What a track record, but that wouldn’t stop the imaginary McCain/Palin Admin. from doing it or the real McCain from screaming for it.
The GOP overthrow of the moderate government of Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, mediated by Teddy Roosevelt's grandson Kermit Jr., is so well documented and so much considered a negative that even President Obama has referred to it as what not to do, several times. Once the Shah took back power, using increasingly violent repression over time to make sure he stayed in place, the CIA took an active role in training his terror-secret police, the SAVAK. One of these fellows' instruments of torture was to tie their victims to a set of red-hot bedsprings. (Might have been ordered for Gitmo by Cheney and approved by Bybee/Yoo as not-torture for all we know, just as long as the victims didn’t die from the event.) So for a variety of reasons (oil, “containment” of the Soviet Union) that support continued unabated under both Republican and Democratic administration for 25 years.
As for a variety of reasons over time resistance to the Shah’s rule became more widespread, he became evermore repressive. In January 1979, with the military standing aside and the SAVAK presumably neutralized, he was eventually overthrown. His government was replaced by a moderate, bourgeois-democratic pro-Western one, lead by Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar. The Shah went into exile.
President Jimmy Carter was warned by the U.S. Embassy in Tehran not to include the U.S. on the Shah's visiting list. The embassy predicted that if that were to occur anti-U.S. violent protests would break out, threatening both U.S. interests there and the still shaky civil government. Carter listened not to his embassy but to Republicans such as Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, and his own National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (an avid Polish refugee Cold Warrior) and let the Shah in. U.S., GOP-lead, meddling, again. We all know what happened then. A budding, pro-Western moderate government was replaced by the repressive theocracy that has ruled Iran down to the present time.
Then, during the 1980 U.S. election it may well have been that the Reagan campaign negotiated directly with the newly-installed Muslim theocracy to get them not to make any deal for release of the hostages. This act, treason if it did actually occur, likely prolonged the captivity of Americans for GOP political gain and also helped the Khomeini regime to cement its place in power (by, in part, taking over the originally CIA-trained SAVAK pretty much unchanged). The next meddling was the secret sale of arms in the early 1980s to a now supposed U.S. enemy, theocratic Iran. This was the “Iran-Contra” affair. The proceeds supplied the money for the illegal support provided by the Reagan Administration to the right-wing rebels in Nicaragua. The GOP openly supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War that was going on at the time, but that secret arms deal actually was supporting both sides at the same time. This meddling was designed to achieve certain non-Middle Eastern foreign policy objectives that they otherwise could not have because US law at the time banned aid to the Nicaraguan Rightists. (Let’s hear for law and order, shall we?)
In our own time, under Bush-Cheney, the U.S. has apparently been supporting armed guerilla forces recruited from certain Iranian ethnic minorities fighting against the present government. They apparently use methods that if used against the U.S. would be labeled as "terrorism." This is direct meddling, of course, again with a political goal. In fact, since, if Seymour Hersh's reporting on this is correct, this effort was under Cheney's direct control, outside of the Pentagon's chain of command. (Who knows, if it is still going on, maybe he is still running it.) There is no way that such small scale efforts could lead to an overthrow of the existing government, but they sure can strengthen its resolve not to deal with the United States on anything. Thus this meddling totally served the domestic political interests of the Bush/Cheney regime, if nothing else: that is to keep the pot boiling overseas in as many places as possible.
So, no U.S./GOP efforts at meddling since 1953 have produced anything positive for the U.S., Iran, or the world, although some have had positive outcomes in terms of GOP domestic politics and policies. No wonder that they are once again screaming "meddle." Good on President Obama for turning a deaf ear to them.
There are a few prominent GOPers, like Sen. Richard Lugar and (mirabile dictu) John Bolton. (Bolton was, ironically, was one of the leaders of the assault threatened by GOP thugs on the Dade County election board in December, 2000, that prevented their recount from moving forward, an event that directly enabled the selection of Bush by the GOPers on the Supreme Court.) They have been saying quite properly that Pres. Obama is doing the proper thing. The reasoning is that should Ahmedinejad retain the Presidency (now all but certain), he is the person with whom Obama is going to have to negotiate over such issues as the Iranian nuclear development program. But the GOP is split over this and their non-Congressional leadership is going at it hammer and tongs. And so we must ask why?
Well, let’s see. Having any influence on the outcome of the stolen election, like having a recount or even a do-over, can’t be it. Even President Obama’s measured tones brought forth screams from the Iranian side (so much do they have in common with the GOP) about how it is he who has been entirely responsible for the demonstrations and the violence there. (How remarkably like GOP reasoning that sounds, doesn’t it? There could not possibly be any legitimate grievances among the Iranian electorate now, could there?) But what is the primary goal of the current GOP, as announced right after the election of President Obama? They want him to fail. And it has become everso apparent that they not only want him to fail, but that they will do what ever they can to assure that outcome.
A peaceful settlement of the Iranian situation, with Iran returning to the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and pursing the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the watchful eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency would be a major foreign policy triumph for Obama. Furthermore it would de-power to some extent the Israeli Right. This is that last thing that the GOP would want. So this is why they are once again meddling in Iran as hard as they can. And even before they could possibly be negatively influencing any Obama attempts at achieving a diplomatic settlement, they at least could be achieving a certain level of deligitimization of him here at home: “he’s just weak, weak, weak, like we always said he was.” So. Meddling in Iran they go and has almost always been the case since the original meddling for oil in 1953, it is done, everso cynically, for domestic political purposes.
This column is based in part on one of the same name that appeared on BuzzFlash on June 19, 2009.