Washington D.C. (AHT) – While some recent developments might seem to defy it, it’s safe to say that there’s an explanation for everything – of some sort – however perverse the logic. So while there must be some reason the CIA has decided now to admit to engineering a regime change in Iran sixty-four years ago, it is clearly a perverse one.
One need hardly describes the current circumstances surrounding America’s relationship with Tehran, following the creation of the mother of all coalitions in Riyadh, “midwifed” by Trump and blessed with a cornucopia of weaponry. Strange time to make an apology to its declared enemy.
But other events make the CIA’s ‘mea culpa’ even more confusing.
It is only weeks since terrorists struck highly symbolic targets in Tehran, in an attack which could be seen as an act of war. Iran is not ‘used to’ terrorist attacks like nearly all its neighbours – Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan – so this lethal violence will surely be disturbing for many ordinary Iranians, even though certain foreign powers are quite obviously responsible, whether directly or as a consequence of the incendiary “Riyadh declaration”.
Some might wonder whether that attack was a prelude to another regime change operation, following the relative failure of the six-year long war on Damascus, and in line with the unrelenting propaganda and aggression from those foreign powers – Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US. With significant assistance from Tehran to defence forces both in Iraq and Syria spoiling their plans for those countries, Iran has become the West’s bogeyman alongside Russia, with even the Syrian government now often described as “the Iranian-backed regime”.
Before considering that other – and successful – regime change operation in 1953, that removed Iran’s democratically elected Nationalist leader Mohamed Mossadegh, one more question on the CIA’s admission of responsibility can’t be ignored; does it have any relation to Russia’s successful US regime change operation in 2016? It might seem a stupid question, as it’s obvious that Russia had absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s unlikely election victory, but we can’t assume that the CIA is stupid.
The current intensification of anti-Iranian rhetoric as well as lethal military action against Iranian and Iranian-supported forces in Iraq and Syria doesn’t look much like “stupid” either, any more than the fifteen-year long farce over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program did. In fact it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this multi-dimensioned campaign against Iran is nothing other than the latest manifestation of the neo-cons’ drive to “remake the Middle East”.
Other recent events in Syria also point to this conclusion. Not only is the US forging ahead with its plans to partition Syria east of the Euphrates, using Da’esh as a Trojan Horse for this totally illicit annexation of Syrian territory, but attempt by Syrian forces to re-exert control over certain strategic areas are being met with extraordinary aggression from US coalition forces. As far as Syria and its allies Russia and Iran are concerned, such attacks are just an acceleration of the US’ long support for the Salafist insurgency against the Syrian government, but increasingly they are being portrayed differently in the West – as a “response” to an alleged “Iranian threat”.
Israel has long portrayed Iranian influence in such terms, portraying the threat to its legitimacy from Hezbollah and Hamas as an existential threat from Iran, and inflating Iran’s political and military support up to US-style river-of-arms dimensions. Pro-Israel media and commentators in the West have also emphasised this link, and constantly talk of ‘Iranian-backed’ militias in Iraq and Syria as if they were the source of instability and conflict. Never a mention of “Qatari-backed militias” – like Ahrar al Sham, or “Saudi-backed militias” like Da’esh. Leave alone “Israeli-backed militias” – like Al Nusra Front.
But amongst the strange realignments in the region following the Saudis’ sudden backstabbing against Qatar – alleging Qatari cooperation with Iran – the Syrian conflict is being re-branded as a war against Iran. When Syrian forces moved against the US-jihadi base near the Jordanian/Iraqi border and were hit with US airstrikes, it was “to prevent Iranian arms shipments”.
Iran is clearly tiring of such provocations, launching some missiles into the US-occupied east of Syria, but significantly on the same day that the US has shot down a Syrian jet south of Raqqa; a rapid escalation of the conflict and direct confrontation between NATO and Russian/Iranian/Syrian forces looks likely – the US has determined it.
There is one face missing from this picture of the Syrian conflict, which is also missing from the CIA’s account of the 1953 Iranian coup, but is an integral player in both – the British Empire. In ‘Web of Deceit’, Mark Curtis portrays the plot to remove Mossadegh as primarily a British affair, mediated by MI6, but in which the assistance of the CIA was sought and later rewarded.
Mossadegh’s crime was to nationalise the Iranian oil industry, which till that time had been a nice little earner for the UK through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – which later became British Petroleum. The attitude of the British to stealing Iran’s national assets is reminiscent of that of Donald Trump – who famously remarked that if he had been president – some years before he was – he would have just ‘gone in and taken the Oil – leaving them what they needed to live’. A sort of “noblesse oblige”.
The problem for Britain however, was that Mossadegh had wide support, so any direct attempt to replace him with someone more sympathetic to Britain’s needs – like the Shah – could provoke a revolution. Instead the UK and US worked together to organise a huge demonstration in Tehran made up entirely of ‘mercenaries’ and threatening a communist takeover; this was the pretext for the already organised military coup, and subsequent return of the Shah’s Western-friendly dictatorship.
For the US the reward for the CIA’s work in paying for and organising a sub-culture of agents to undermine Mossadegh was a 40% share in a new Oil export consortium, making it an equal partner in a ‘special relationship’ with the UK. For Iran the reward was twenty-five years of repression and poverty for the masses, with a pervasive and brutal secret police trained by the SAS and Mossad.
So while those less-favoured Iranians who already knew what the British and Americans did to them in 1953 can never forget nor forgive, the US and its partners in crime look back on that era with nostalgia, and can never forget how Iran’s wealth was taken from them in the Iranian revolution of 1979.
As regime change operations go, Iran’s massive revolt against that violent and repressive US puppet regime would be a hard act to follow. Do we really think we can do it again?
This post originally ran on American Herald Tribune.
Also published on Medium.