Obama at the UN:
Whitewashing the Real "Roots of Mistrust" between the U.S. and Iran

Part 1: The 1953 CIA Coup, the Shah, and the 1979 Revolution

by Larry Everest | October 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On September 27, the President of the United States spoke directly (by phone) to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. This is a big deal. The leaders of these two countries haven't spoken to each other since 1979. Since then, the U.S. and Iran have been nose-to-nose in conflict, with the real possibility of U.S.-Israeli military action that would hold terrible consequences for the people of Iran, and the whole region and beyond.

The Obama-Rouhani conversation comes at a time of great upheaval in the Middle East that's impacting the calculations of all the players involved, including the world's big powers. Against this backdrop, the phone call between the two heads of state appears to be part of a new, broader diplomatic effort, which Obama claimed is aimed at lessening U.S.-Iranian tensions and would "help serve as a foundation for a broader peace." Since then, Secretary of State John Kerry met directly with the foreign ministers of Iran, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany. New talks are reportedly in the works.

It's important to analyze and assess all of Obama's UN comments on Iran, as well as why the U.S. is making this move now, what it's demanding from Iran, what the Iranian position is, the prospects for an agreement, and what it would mean for the people of Iran, the Middle East, and the world. Revolution will be doing so in future coverage.

But to understand any of these particular moves and, more importantly, the overall course of U.S.-Iranian relations, you have to understand the actual history and relationship between the United States and Iran. This is a subject the powers-that-be in the U.S. constantly lie about—as Obama did at the UN, which we'll dig into here (and in Part 2).

Obama's Rewrite of the Roots of U.S.-Iran "Mistrust"

One way to get into that history and relationship is to take apart the script Obama put forward in his UN speech, shortly before he reached out to Rouhani. Here's how Obama characterized what he called the "difficult history" between the U.S. and Iran:

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly—or through proxies—taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

Obama has chosen his words very carefully so that every sentence distorts history and reality with half-truths, omissions, mischaracterizations, and outright lies to serve U.S. imperialism and foster a "thinking like an American" outlook and understanding of history. Is this too bald a statement? Knee-jerk, blame America rhetoric? Let's break it down, step by step.

"Isolated from One Another"? Or Hiding the Big Picture?

What is the overall picture that emerges from Obama's "balanced" portrayal: the U.S. and Iran are more or less equal players in the region and that each has its own complaints. Iran's "mistrust" is rooted in American political actions ("interference"), which he implies took place long ago ("during the Cold War"—this omits or covers up the crimes the U.S. has carried out against Iran over the past several decades). In contrast, Obama presents America's fears as present, immediate, and literally life-and-death: Iran has declared the U.S. an "enemy," actually killed Americans, and threatened to obliterate its ally Israel. As we'll show below, Obama is touching on certain partial truths to totally distort the big picture, including the Islamic Republic's actual positions, and to whitewash and cover up U.S. actions and motives toward Iran—and what it's still doing.

The first and most important thing this distorts and thereby falsifies is the overall context and framework within which the U.S.-Iran clash is taking place. To begin, the U.S. is far, far, far more powerful than Iran, a reality Obama slides over, giving the impression of some sort of rough equality. In fact, the U.S. economy is 30 times larger than Iran's and worlds ahead technologically. Nor is there any equality militarily: the U.S. spends 100 times more on its armed forces than does Iran; it has roughly 750 military bases around the world; Iran has none, though it does have military forces and advisors deployed in Iraq, Syria, and perhaps Lebanon, along with relationships with other forces that are engaged in small-scale conflict with Israel—the key U.S. ally in the region. America has approximately 5,113 nuclear warheads; Iran, none.

But these are just indicators of the deeper, foundational, and overall relationship between the U.S. and Iran: the U.S. is the world's dominant imperialist power, while Iran is a relatively cohered and highly repressive country that stands in a dependent and subordinate relationship to world imperialism. In other words, the U.S. and a handful of other imperialist powers compete to dominate and shape the global economic-political-military playing field and subordinate the economic and political life of countries like Iran to their overall needs.

U.S.-orchestrated sanctions and their impact on Iran illustrates imperialism's stranglehold on the global economy. The U.S. and a handful of global powers control the international banking and financial system which shapes how—and whether—countries are able to conduct business, obtain basic goods, etc. One element is called SWIFT, a mechanism for transmitting money electronically around the world. The U.S. first imposed sanctions which legally restrict trade and commerce with Iran in 1979, but they've been ratcheted up significantly since 2002. In 2010, the U.S. and its allies tightened the noose by expelling Iran from SWIFT, making it extremely difficult for it to trade internationally. Oil sales, which make up 80 percent of government revenues, have been cut in half. Iran is unable to access its own foreign currency reserves held abroad, and is facing an intense shortage of foreign currencies. Severe restrictions are placed on how it can use the money it is earning from oil sales. All this, according to a recent New York Times analysis, is "bringing the country's economy to its knees."1

Such sanctions are a form of warfare against an entire population—a real weapon of mass destruction—that is causing enormous suffering, including needless deaths, on Iran's population. Factories and businesses have shut down, unemployment is widespread, even vital medicines are unavailable. "Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and blood-clotting agents for haemophiliacs," the Guardian UK reported earlier this year.2

Think about it: In today's world it's unimaginable that Iran, Argentina, Nigeria, or any other country could exert this kind of stranglehold on other economies. In this and many other ways, the system of imperialism is the cause of unseen and untold suffering for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.3

Why has the U.S. concentrated such power in its hands? Because the functioning and global dominance of U.S. capitalism-imperialism requires the control of key markets, labor pools, resources, and strategic regions. These are the real drivers of U.S. actions around the world—not the declarations of so-called universal principles and core American values like "peace" and "human rights," that America's imperial spokespeople incessantly yap about to cloak actual motives.

The Middle East is one such strategic region—the geographic, military, and trade nexus between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and where over 60 percent of the world's known energy reserves are located. This necessity has driven decades of fierce U.S. jockeying, interventions, and wars in the region to defeat or fend off other global powers and regional forces that arise (in reaction to American actions and the anarchic workings of their system globally) to challenge the U.S.-dominated order. It has led it to build the settler-state of Israel into its key pillar of U.S. regional political and military power, and to its vociferous support for every towering crime Israel has committed against Palestinians and others in the region and globally.

For the past 30-plus years, the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Islamic fundamentalist trends from North Africa through the Middle East, Central Asia, and beyond have been one such major challenge facing the U.S. empire. That Iran sits at the geopolitical fulcrum of key and shifting world contradictions (energy, geopolitics, ideology, religion), with its own regional ambitions and links to major world powers (and U.S. rivals) including Russia and China, makes the Islamic Republic's existence and ambitions all the more vexing and problematic for the imperialists.

Any real understanding of U.S.-Iranian relations—borne out by every episode of history discussed below—must start from this overall reality.

America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War: The 1953 CIA coup d'état

Obama is largely repeating the empire's "narrative" about Iran that's been relentlessly drummed into the American mind. So it's crucial to dig into some of the key chapters of U.S.-Iran history Obama touched on in his UN speech and excavate the actual motives and interests of the imperialists as well as the class forces they're clashing with in Iran.

Here's Obama's capsule version of the U.S. record in Iran: "Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and of America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War."

What Obama is referring to when he speaks of "America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War" is the CIA-organized 1953 coup d'état that overthrew the government of Mohammad Mossadegh and made the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, an absolute monarch serving the U.S.

Some background is important.

Iran had been invaded, colonized, and dominated by the Russian and British empires since the late 1700s. British imperialist domination in Iran was highly oppressive itself, and it relied on local oppressors—Iran's Kings (known as "Shahs") and feudal landlords, along with some urban merchants, to protect its interests there. These local oppressors played the key role in suppressing the masses of Iranian people, whose interests lay in Iran developing as an independent nation free of imperialism—and in getting rid of feudalism—while the local oppressors benefited politically and economically from their relationship with imperialism. But at the same time, there were many ways in which capitalist-imperialist domination disrupted and undercut the traditional feudal economic and social relations, and the traditional feudal ideologies, which had held society together, on a reactionary basis, for generations.

British imperialist domination also meant directly controlling and exploiting Iran's main commercial resource—oil—via the British government-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later renamed British Petroleum). In 1947, Anglo-Iranian earned $112 million from Iranian oil, while paying Iran only $19.5 million. Meanwhile, the bulk of Iran's population was impoverished and denied basic political rights.

By the late 1940s, a broad movement to take control of the country's oil wealth was gaining momentum. It coalesced in the National Front, a diverse alliance under the leadership of a bourgeois nationalist, Mohammad Mossadegh, who sought to loosen imperialism's control of Iran and strengthen parliament's power against the monarchy. In April 1951, Iran's parliament (Majlis) nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). A week later, Mossadegh was named Prime Minister.

These modest reforms were intolerable to the U.S. and Britain. At the time, Middle East oil production was controlled by Western oil conglomerates, and Iran's nationalization was unprecedented. The U.S. was moving into the Middle East and taking over from Britain and France as the region's predominant power. The Eisenhower administration feared that Mossadegh's actions would not only rob the West of billions in oil revenues and supplies, it would set a bad precedent for other oil producing countries in the region. And it could enable the then-socialist Soviet Union to increase its influence in Iran.

In 1953, Iran's military carried out a violent coup "under CIA direction" and "as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government," the CIA finally admitted in August 2013.4

Iran's CIA-directed military government made Shah Reza Pahlavi an absolute monarch. With full U.S. backing, the Shah imposed indefinite martial law that was overseen by U.S. military advisors and imposed by the dreaded secret police—SAVAK. Opposition groups were outlawed. All forms of political organization and activity—even literary gatherings—were banned. Massive arrests, unjustified detentions, institutionalized torture, summary tribunals, prison-murders, and executions were the order of the day. Five out of every six publications that were operating before the Shah came to power were shut down by his regime. The Shah ruled Iran with an iron fist for the next 26 years.

Full control of production and sale of Iran's oil was returned to a consortium of international oil corporations, which now included five American oil giants.

Some may hail Obama's "candor" in critically referring to this sordid chapter of U.S. history. But think about it: The fact that the1953 CIA coup is rarely, if ever, discussed by top officials or in the mainstream press just shows how thoroughly America's ruling structures suppress the truth and exercise overall dictatorship over the discourse and thinking of the population.

Second, Obama is talking about these events as part of a strategic move aimed at maintaining overall U.S. control of the Middle East—including reasserting greater control of Iran. But he's talking about these events in ways that not only cloak the reality but are aimed at legitimizing U.S. maneuvers and aggression toward Iran.

25 Years of U.S. Imperialist "Interference"—Read Strangulation under the Shah

The events of 1953 were just the start of America's strangulation of Iran under the rule of the tyrant it installed, the Shah, which helped sow the seeds for the whirlwind that was to come—Iran's 1979 revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Talking generically and generally of Iranian "complaints" of a "history of U.S. interference in their affairs" doesn't even begin to capture the enormity of what the U.S. did to Iran and its tens of millions of people during the 25-plus years the Shah ruled with an iron, U.S.-controlled, hand. It's like saying a neighbor "complained" because you burned down their house and murdered their children.

For 25 years, Iran under the Shah became internationally notorious for the torture, jailing, and repression carried out by its U.S.-trained secret police SAVAK. And Iran's infrastructure, oil industry, economy, and military and political posture were all configured to serve Western interests. This process caused tremendous suffering and dislocation in Iran, in both the countryside and cities, and it alienated wide swaths of the population—including elements of the old ruling order, most notably sections of the clerical establishment.

At the same time, the U.S. was building up the Shah's regime as a regional instrument of American power—arming and utilizing it against revolutionary movements in the region and as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.5 The U.S.-Soviet "cold war" was a battle between imperialist rivals for global dominance. This conflict played out intensely across the Middle East, and decisively shaped U.S. policy toward Iran. During these decades, the U.S didn't "advise" Iran—it utterly dictated the course of development and political life. All this resulted from how the U.S. perceived and was fighting for its interests in Iran, the region, and globally—not from "universal values" or "human rights." This was also the period in which the U.S. greatly stepped up its support for—and arming of—the state of Israel, its other main pillar in the region.

This is the bitter, blood-stained, 25-year history that Obama covers up, trivializes, and whitewashes as "Iranian complaints"—and on a par with some U.S. personnel being held hostage for a year-plus (none of whom were injured or killed). Meanwhile, Iran was held hostage for over two and a half decades!6

The 1979 Iranian Revolution

At the UN, Obama said, "The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979." He makes it sound like the U.S. didn't have much to do with the revolution. True, it wasn't in control of events—but that wasn't for lack of trying, including backing the Shah's violent attempts to crush the uprising.

Opposition to and hatred for the Shah had simmered for decades. And it was no secret to the victims of the Shah's brutal rule that he had been installed, and was backed lock, stock, and barrel, by the United States. A succession of U.S. presidents embraced the Shah, perhaps none more exuberantly than Jimmy Carter, who branded himself the "human rights" president. In December 1977, as protests against the Shah were on the rise (particularly among students abroad), Carter toasted the Shah and his regime as an "island of stability" in a sea of turmoil.

Literally weeks later, a mass uprising began that soon became a tidal wave of revolt, seemingly out of nowhere, The U.S. was hardly "isolated" from what was taking place. As the uprising unfolded and gained momentum in 1978, the Shah attempted to drown it in blood—backed and supported by the United States. In a September massacre known as "Bloody Friday," the Shah's troops killed thousands of people. But this ended up broadening and accelerating the mass upheaval and de-legitimizing the Shah. In December 1978, more than 10 million people—a third of Iran's entire population—took to the streets demanding an end to the Shah's rule. In January 1979, the Shah was forced to go into exile under U.S. protection. The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in February 1979, sending shockwaves rippling across the region and world.

A wide variety of political forces and people from all walks of life congealed to topple the Shah. Radicals and leftists, including revolutionary communists, played a key and heroic role in the rebellion (and in the final overthrow of the old regime).

A section of Iran's Islamic religious establishment, headed by the Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini (who had been living in exile since the mid-1960s), emerged as a major and ultimately the leading element in this mix. The Khomeini-led Islamists condemned the history of colonial and imperialist interference in Iran. They pointed to the West, and the U.S. in particular, as a source of the oppression and repression Iran's people faced under the Shah. And they argued that only an Islamic state, a theocracy based on the Koran and Islamic law (Sharia) and ruled by a hierarchy of clerics, could end these abuses and create a just society.

Khomeini's vision and program were extremely reactionary—not emancipatory. They would not and could not free Iran from imperialist control (despite their claims to the contrary). Nor would this Islamist agenda alleviate the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of Iran's people, which was closely bound up with the country's subordination to global capital.

Ayatollah Khomeini's actual program and ideology reflected the outlook of remnants of outmoded strata—classes from Iran's feudal past—that still retained influence in modern Iranian society. Khomeini in particular claimed devotion to the impoverished masses, the "mostazafin" (literally, shoeless). But his program and outlook sought to alleviate suffering by going backward (for instance, promoting religious charity), not challenging the basic oppressive economic and social relations of class society in Iran, let alone the world. So Khomeini's Islamist project could only serve to perpetuate those class and oppressive divisions. In fact, Khomeini and his supporters aimed to cohere (and retrench) Iranian society around fundamentally oppressive social relations and a culture and morality that reflected those relations. For example, the subordination of women by men was an essential pillar of Khomeini's program, which was violently imposed, including by attacking an International Women's Day rally less than a month after the revolution.

Yes, Khomeini did develop a mass following, including among sections of Iran's downtrodden and oppressed. On the eve of the revolution, there were many forces in the field, but the Islamists retained a nationwide network and platform in many mosques. Khomeini was in exile in Iraq and then Paris, but was able to speak to thousands and later millions via widely circulated audio-taped messages. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all the reasons the Islamist movement developed such significant traction among anti-Shah Iranians. But the fact that many oppressed masses rallied to Khomeini's banner did not in any way change the reactionary nature of his program, or the fact that it did not represent the interests of the Iranian masses or humanity.7

The U.S. Role in the Establishment of the Islamic Republic

The 1978 events in Iran took the U.S. rulers and their "intelligence" agencies by surprise. Not grasping the deeper contradictions at work, Iran did appear to be an "island of stability," where the Shah's enormous U.S.-armed and -trained military and repressive apparatus could readily crush any and all challenges. U.S. strategists suddenly faced a choice of bad options.

Given the alignment of anti-Shah political forces and the depth and breadth of the uprising against his hated regime, the U.S. sensed that pushing Iran's military to attempt to violently suppress the revolution would only make matters worse. It would likely fail, and instead radicalize the situation and enable a host of secular left political trends—from Mossadegh-style secular nationalists, to pro-Soviet revisionists, to genuine Maoist communists—to gain traction. It could also have fractured Iran's military—the key pillar of U.S. influence in Iran. So instead, the Carter administration calculated that U.S. interests could be best served by going along with Khomeini's ascent to power. In early February 1979, Khomeini was allowed to return to Iran from exile in France, and by mid-February he became the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

For one, Khomeini and his followers were vehemently anti-communist and anti-Soviet Union, so U.S. officials assumed a Khomeini-led regime would remain a bulwark against their main global adversary. In January 1979, a U.S. Embassy official wrote in a secret cable that the Khomeini-led forces were "far better organized, enlightened, able to resist communism than its detractors would lead us to believe."8

The Carter administration was also betting that the more secular, pro-Western, and so-called "moderate" elements in Khomeini's entourage were likely to end up doing the actual governing. They didn't grasp that Ayatollah Khomeini and the clerical establishment were not going to fade into the background as cultural advisors, but were intent on establishing a reactionary Islamic theocracy, ruled by clerics and their ideological followers.

So during the first months of 1979, the U.S. maintained diplomatic relations with Iran, and attempted to build ties with and strengthen the hand of these "moderates," while publicly supporting the Khomeini regime's efforts to crush the oppressed Kurdish people, as well as radical secularists, leftists, and communists broadly.

This chapter too is part of the long history of U.S. "interference in Iranian affairs."

The 1979 "Hostage Crisis"

Obama "balanced" his airbrush of Iran's grievances with U.S. counter-charges: "On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy, and directly—or through proxies—taken American hostages…"

These charges stem in part from the 1979 "Hostage Crisis," as it was labeled, an event which helped inaugurate decades of U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic and still shapes how most people living in this country view Iran and U.S.-Iranian relations.

On October 22, 1979, the Carter administration admitted the deposed Shah into the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment—this after refusing Iranian demands that this hated butcher be returned to face trial in the country whose people he so tormented. This added to growing anger at perceived U.S. efforts to continue to shape Iran's politics, and sparked fears of a replay of the 1953 coup. The U.S. Embassy in downtown Teheran became a site of frequent protests and chants of "Down with America" and "Death to America."

On November 4, at one such protest, a group of Iranian students linked with the Islamic Republic entered the grounds and seized control of the embassy itself, taking some embassy staff hostages. The students then held them and the embassy for 444 days with Khomeini's blessing. None of the U.S. personnel were killed, beaten, or tortured.

Consolidating Islamist Rule

Why did Khomeini support these students? Establishing an Islamic Republic meant establishing it as against the U.S. in certain ways. Khomeini needed to ride the widespread popular hatred of the U.S. and what it had done, as well as rebuff attempts to use the embassy to shape Iran's politics (as embassy cables, shredded by embassy officials but painstakingly pasted back together by the occupying students, revealed). The Islamists also used the embassy seizure to oust lukewarm supporters within the Islamic Republic and crush its opponents without. Over the first several years of its rule, the Islamic Republic murdered tens of thousands, including many revolutionary communists, partly under the banner of "anti-imperialism." (See "Interview with Former Iranian Political Prisoner," Revolution, March 23, 2008.) And it instituted draconian repression against women, suppressed scientific and critical thinking, and forced fundamentalist religion on society.

Overall the Khomeini regime sought to loosen the U.S. and Western stranglehold on Iran's politics, economics, military, and, very importantly culture—and carve out a somewhat more independent role internationally. This was driven by both the clerics' ambitions and the necessities the array of clerics and other forces emerging as a new ruling class in Iran faced in consolidating Islamist rule, and reshaping Iranian law, politics, culture, and ideology accordingly.

A key tenet of the Islamic fundamentalist movement has been stated opposition to Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and one of the Islamic Republic's first acts was to break relations with the state of Israel. In part, the fundamentalists are playing to the hatred of Israel's crimes that is widespread across the Middle East. In part, this stance reflects Islamist ideological opposition to a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world. And in part, the Islamic Republic sees Israel as an impediment to its regional needs and ambitions. It should be noted that this is not the same thing as genuine support for struggle aimed at fundamentally liberating the Palestinian people. But in any case, the U.S. is heavily committed to the Zionist state as its main and only fully reliable enforcer in the region, a commitment that increased after the sudden fall of its other main regional pillar—the Shah's regime. So the Islamic Republic's posture toward Israel fed and deepened U.S. antagonism.9

None of this had anything to do with Iran fundamentally rupturing from the global market, uprooting capitalism, narrowing and ultimately eliminating class divisions, or emancipating humanity. It was in vehement and violent opposition to those communist goals and to the fundamental interests of the popular strata they rallied under their wing. Instead, the Iranian revolution marked the rise of another outmoded, reactionary force in the region contending with outmoded, reactionary imperialism that had been dominating the region for over a century.

Iran: It's Not Our Embassy!

The U.S. imperialist class reacted to the embassy seizure with a frenzy of American chauvinism, anti-Iran propaganda, and a bevy of economic, political, and military attacks on the Islamic Republic. The U.S. immediately froze billions in Iran's assets, began imposing sanctions, in April 1980 broke diplomatic relations, and later that month conducted a military raid to free its embassy personnel, which failed. Meanwhile, the U.S. built up its regional military forces, and later in 1980 encouraged Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran.

The system turned the 444-day embassy seizure into a daily "made-for-TV" exercise in American chauvinism, training people to see the world through the eyes of the ruling imperialists and their interests. ABC began a nightly program—America Held Hostage: The Iran Crisis, hosted by Ted Koppel (which later became the program Nightline). Night after night, it was "America Held Hostage, Day..." whatever. History was obliterated and turned upside down: Suddenly the power responsible for 25 years of torture under the Shah, of robbing Iran of billions, and stomping on Iranian needs and aspirations, was now the "victim." This upside-down and reactionary storyline was recently, and shamefully, reprised in the film Argo, and is being channeled in basic form by Obama.

In reality, the U.S. rulers' concerns didn't start or end with the situation of their embassy personnel. The issue for them was their continued hold on this vital country and region and their overall contention at the time with the imperialist Soviet Union. The embassy seizure was a direct slap at U.S. global credibility—America's perceived ability to impose its will at will—and it threatened U.S. interests in Iran, the region, and globally.

This episode also put revolutionaries in the U.S. to the test. Communist opposition to the reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic and its assaults on revolutionary and progressive Iranians did not mean going along with U.S. imperialist aggression, intervention, or propaganda. Instead, it meant opposing such attacks, supporting the genuine revolutionaries in Iran, and being clear that U.S. imperialism represented the far greater danger to humanity. It meant being clear on the special responsibility people living in the belly of this imperial beast had to stand against the crimes, aggression, and legitimacy of "our" rulers. And it meant ideologically opposing American chauvinism with communist internationalism. This stance was powerfully captured in Bob Avakian's statement at the time:

"It's not our embassy, we don't have an embassy; this is the embassy of the imperialist ruling class and we stand with the Iranian people." (From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, Insight Press, 2005, page 400)

The 1979 Revolution and then the U.S. embassy crisis marked the beginning of over three decades of U.S. antagonism toward the Islamic Republic. But as we'll delve into in Part 2, this has not meant, as Obama claimed, that the U.S. and Iran have been "isolated" from each other! On the contrary, Iran has been directly subjected to U.S. aggression for over 30 years, from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War which the U.S. helped fuel (when Iran was hardly "isolated" from the effects of Iraqi chemical weapons attacks, which were facilitated by the U.S.), to crippling U.S. sanctions which reach deeply into every corner of Iran's economy and society, and repeated U.S. military threats over the past 20-plus years. Nor was the U.S. isolated from Iranian moves to increase its presence in the region, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

To be continued


1. "Iran Staggers as Sanctions Hit Economy," September 30, 2013. [back]

2. Larry Everest, "Sanctions: Weapons of Mass Death and Destruction," Revolution, January 20, 2013. We'll dig further into the role and impact of U.S.-imposed international sanctions in Part 2. [back]

3. See Raymond Lotta, "Nicholas Kristof's Ode to Imperialism...What Kind of World Is He Celebrating? What Kind of World Can Emancipate Humanity?" Revolution, October 14, 2013. [back]

4. "In Declassified Document, CIA Acknowledges Role In '53 Iran Coup," CNN.com, August 22, 2013. [back]

5. The Soviet Union was then an imperialist power, having restored capitalism (in the form of ownership of major enterprises by various (and competing) government agencies and departments, i.e, "state capitalism") in the mid-1950s. This state capitalist form enabled them to continue to operate under the guise of "communism." Wielding this mask of (phony) "communism," the Soviet Union tried to increase their influence in the Middle East, where (real) communism was widely identified with opposition to imperialism and oppression. [back]

6. For background on much of the history of U.S.-Iran relations outlined in this article, see "The U.S. & Iran: A History of Imperialist Domination, Intrigue and Intervention," by Larry Everest, Revolution, May 20, 2007. [back]

7. Those factors included widespread opposition to Western influence and imperialism, which was blamed for backing the Shah and all the suffering and dislocation that took place under his rule. This gave traction to the notion that going back to the "old ways" and traditional culture were antidotes to imperialist-driven economic and cultural "modernization." Another major factor was the global political and ideological impact of losing the revolutionary pole represented by Maoist China in the wake of the 1976 coup that restored capitalism following Mao's death. For a thorough discussion of these and other factors in Islamic fundamentalism's rise, see Bob Avakian's Away With All Gods, Insight Press, 2008. [back]

8. Robert Dreyfuss, Devil's Game–How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan Books, 2006), p. 219. [back]

9. It should be noted that over the last decade, the Islamic Republic has made it very clear that it was willing to recognize Israel and work out a modus vivendi with it in return for U.S. recognition of its legitimate place in the region and an end to the U.S.-imposed state of siege. [back]

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