According to the objective and well-meaning press, Iran is one of those countries that is hell-bent on state-sponsored terrorism, the destruction of pesky geopolitical opponents, and the eradication of American influence over the egalitarianly challenged Middle East. In other words:
The Iranians are asking for it.
And by “it,” I do mean some action deemed in military terms as unsympathetic, like a therapeutic dose of shock and awe up the old wazoo.
However, all this rhetoric got me thinking. See, I’ve often found that when finger pointing begins, it pays to look at the history leading up to the kerfuffle. Anyone with kids knows this instinctively. And though a good many of you may already be familiar with the history of American diplomatic relations with Iran, let’s take a quick hippety-hop down memory lane for those who think the Middle East is somewhere between New Jersey and North Carolina.
April 1951: Mosaddeq Elected Prime Minister of Iran – Mosaddeq was of course democratically elected by the Iranian Parliament, but why should we let something as petty as that get in our way? Mosaddeq was dubbed a Communist pig faster than a Texan can whip up an all-you-can-eat barbecue (dry rub). His intent to nationalize Iran’s oil industry might as well have been a cattle call to every CIA agent east of the Mediterranean looking for a fat bonus check. Looking back over our misguided McCarthy-istic goof-ups in this period (and, believe me, “goof-ups” is the polite way of phrasing it), I can’t imagine we could have done a better job of kick-starting a classic cold war cluster-flub.
1952: Mosaddeq Nationalization of Iran’s Oil Industry – You can almost see it coming, can’t you? Mosaddeq might as well have painted a big red target on his buttocks and pranced around singing “Do It Now” by The Clash. And one should interpret the “‘It” part of that title to mean elaborately orchestrated CIA chicanery involving generous servings of propaganda, choreographed public protests worthy of a Bollywood dance number, minor acts of terrorism, and a surprise visit by a tank regiment just to say “Howdy-do, pahdnuh!” By the way, to be fair to my fellow Americans of a bygone era, it looks like the British were more interested in saving their soon-to-be-lost oil interests than the US was. See? We’re not the only ones who consider the Middle East our private oil reserve. And in those Eisenhower-era days of anti-Communist hysteria, John Bull quickly received our benevolent cooperation. Locked and loaded!
August 1953: Iranian Government Overthrown by Rebels and CIA – Iranian rebels with just a wee bit’o help from the CIA succeeded with operation Ajax, a coup planned by CIA operative Kermit (no relation to the frog) Roosevelt. Don’t you just love these names? Various US oil companies soon found themselves – as lady luck would have it – owning a large chunk of Iranian oil production and, before you can say “politics makes strange bedfellows,” a marriage was arranged between anti-Communist warmongers and the petroleum industry. Isn’t it wonderful when love blossoms into something special?
1952 – 1975: Iran Considered a Friendly Ally of the US – Sure, there was some occasional killing of US military personnel, but in the grand scheme of things did it matter? The Shah’s US-trained SAVAK secret police kept things under control using a smorgasbord (not to be confused with a waterboard) of persuasion techniques, mostly of medieval vintage. As long as the oil flowed (think of the spice export industry on Arrakis here) and Commies were kept on the run, it was all good…right? (Sound of crickets chirping in the background.) Right?
1975: US Administration Backs Iran’s Nuclear Plans – How times have changed! It’s hard to believe that there was a time when we were practically wetting our chainmail panties out of eagerness to give Iran nuclear capabilities, but that’s exactly what happened. The primary reason to give the Iranians nukes was to free up more oil for export to the West. And you could almost smell the US oil industry protecting its home market from a new energy source. Who cared if the Middle East glowed like a plutonium-enriched jack-o’-lantern? It’s a barren desert! No spotted owls to worry about there!
November 1978 to February 1979: US Officials Begin Supporting Radical Muslims, Leading to the Shah’s Ouster – Ouch! Once again, in hindsight, it’s amazing to think we actually wanted this. But Radical Islam looked like a crafty way to destabilize Communist advances in the region. I guess this is what you get when you can’t attack a problem the good old-fashioned way, i.e., by sending in the troops. Intelligent minds actually suggested letting right-wing fundamentalist screwballs turn the whole Middle East into a pure crap-storm of diplomatic idiocy. It’s not even clear if this was planned or if we just let a Ouija board determine our foreign policy. Personally, I go with the Ouija board.
November 1979: Alliance with Khomeini’s Iranian Government Ends – A lot of euphemisms come to mind, but from a technical point of view, the expression “we screwed the pooch” seems most apropos. Quite frankly, it’s laughable that the US would have considered the Khomeini regime to be something it might conceivably have been able to control. It was like expecting an elephant to let you hold it by its schlong. President Carter’s administration became a laughingstock for Republican hawks as radical Islamic students stormed the US embassy and took hostages in a fiasco that led, shortly thereafter, to a similar Republican takeover of the White House.
I could go on and on – well, I already have – but starting at this point one could sum up American relations with Iran as the vilest, most belligerent game of tag any group of overgrown children has ever played:
- September 1980: Start of Iran-Iraq War with support of US for BOTH sides – Tag! You’re it!
- 1980 – 1984: Iran begins to sponsor terrorism – Tag! You’re it!
- March 1984: US fights UN condemnation of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons – Tag!You’re it!
- 1984: More Iran-sponsored terrorism and kidnapping to wrangle arms from the US – Tag! You’re it!
- 1986: The Iran-Contra scandal – Tag! You’re…it?
- 1989: US provides more support to Iraq – Tag! You’re it!
- 1990s: Numerous acts of terrorism are linked to Iran via Hezbollah – Tag! You’re it!
- January 2002: Bush labels Iran part of the “Axis of Evil” – Tag! You’re it!
- December 2002: Iran constructs two nuclear facilities – Tag! You’re it!
Tag! You’re it! Tag! You’re it! Tag! You’re it! Tag! You’re it! Tag! You’re it!
Oh, sorry. Had a flashback to the first grade for a moment there. I may need a time-out for milk-and-cookies.
It goes on and on even today. Who’s the bad guy? Who’s the good guy? Who is Taylor Swift dating…oh, never mind. You can argue until you’re blue in your burqa, but the real question may be: Is the US really innocent in all this? Now that’s a question.
Tag! You’re it!