Revolution #88, May 13, 2007

U.S. Relationship with Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue, and War

For the U.S. rulers, dominating the Middle East and Central Asia is critical to their sole superpower status and the very functioning of their system, at home and around the world. Global capitalism is fueled and lubricated by oil. The heart of the world petroleum industry is in this region—in particular the Persian Gulf, which contains some 60 percent of the world's known oil reserves. Iran—with its large size, population, and oil reserves—is a very important country in this region. And the U.S. has a long history of domination and intervention in Iran.

1953: The CIA Coup
Britain was the main power dominating Iran until World War 2. After the end of World War 2, the U.S. moved against nationalist sentiments in Iran while maneuvering to squeeze out Britain as the main imperialist overlord. Iran was a constitutional monarchy, with an elected parliament. In 1953 Iran’s Prime Minister Mossadegh, with massive popular support, attempted to nationalize the British-owned oil company Anglo-Iranian. The CIA organized a coup that overthrew the Mossadegh government, restored the Shah Mohmmad Reza Pahlevi as a full monarch, and established the U.S. as the dominant power over Iran. For the next 25 years, the Shah ruled Iran with a bloody iron fist—making Iran's economy totally subservient to U.S. and Western imperialism and acting as an enforcer of U.S. interests in the Middle East. The Shah's hated secret police, the Savak, imprisoned, tortured and murdered huge numbers of Iranians who dared to oppose his regime.

1977-79: The Fall of the Shah and the Rise of the Islamic Republic
In December 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter called Iran under the Shah an "island of stability" in a sea of turmoil. But, in reality, the anger of the people at the brutal U.S.-backed ruled of the Shah was developing into a powerful mass movement. A year after Carter's statement, more than 10 million people—a third of Iran's entire population—took to the streets to demand an end to the Shah's tyrannical regime. The Shah responded with vicious repression. In a massacre known as "Bloody Friday," the Shah's troops killed thousands of protesters in September 1978. But in January 1979, the Shah was forced to go into exile under U.S. protection. In November 1979, Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, took hostages, and demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran to face trial.

However, the aspirations and the mass upsurge of the Iranian people were seized upon by Islamic fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Khomeini, who established the Islamic Republic which has ruled Iran since then. The thoroughly reactionary nature of this theocratic regime is concentrated in the feudal oppression and enslavement of women. While this regime opposes U.S. imperialism in certain ways, the Islamic Republic has not, and cannot, break with imperialism in any fundamental way. It does not represent anything progressive or positive for the people, in Iran and throughout the region.

With the fall of the Shah's regime, the U.S. lost control over a key country in this very strategically important region—at a time when the U.S. faced a rival imperialist superpower, the Soviet Union, in the Middle East and elsewhere. In January 1980 Carter made clear (in what came to be known as the "Carter Doctrine") that the U.S. was ready to use force, including nuclear weapons, to protect its imperialist interests: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

1980-87: Iran-Iraq War
In 1980, Iraq's Saddam Hussein—with U.S. encouragement—launched a war against Iran, hoping to overwhelm the new Islamic Regime and assert Iraq's regional power. The U.S. played a Machiavellian game of deception and double-dealing to prevent either side from winning decisively so that the war continued for years and bled each country. The U.S. supplied military equipment to Iraq, including the type of chemical weapons that the Hussein regime used against Kurds, while also running a covert arms supply operation to Iran. By the end of this war, there were over a million casualties on both sides.

9/11 and the "Axis of Evil"
Under the rubric of a "war against terrorism," the U.S. invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are in fact strategic thrusts in a horrific U.S. offensive. The objective: to solidify and deepen control over the Middle East and Central Asia—as a crucial step in creating an unchallenged and unchallengeable worldwide empire—and to attack those the U.S. sees as threats to that domination. Iran has been a central focus of the U.S. in this offensive. In his 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush declared that Iran was part of the so-called "Axis of Evil." Through the assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the aims of the Bush regime was to intimidate Iran and weaken the influence of the Islamic Regime in the region. But in fact, the U.S. removed two of the Iranian regime's main adversaries, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein. This has actually given the Iranian rulers a freer hand to try to expand their regional influence.

Spring 2007: Escalating U.S. War Threats Against Iran
Even as the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues—with new horrors for the Iraqi people every day—the Bush regime is on a trajectory toward more confrontation and possible war with Iran. Not a week goes by without some new revelation about U.S. preparations for a military strike on Iran, or yet another belligerent threat against Iran from the mouth of a ruling class representative, Republican or Democrat. A U.S. war on Iran, including the possible use of nuclear bombs, would cause massive death and destruction for the Iranian people. And such a war would accelerate the very negative dynamic of McWorld/McCrusade vs Jihad—two reactionary and historically outmoded poles which are opposed but also reinforce each other. All this points to the urgent necessity for people around the world, and especially within the U.S., to take massive political action to stop theU.S. from launching a war on Iran.

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