There’s been much talk around Iran, the United States, and the role of the two in the continuing instability in the Middle East of late, and I felt that perhaps it was time to have a little look into the wider context of the current drama and extricate some key points for consideration.
Iran, like the overwhelming majority of countries in the world including our own, has human rights issues. These are worth noting, as without awareness of them we are liable to form an inaccurate image of the country.
Of course, our images of the country will be inaccurate regardless of how we approach forming them, so we must be careful not to confuse our talking here with the actuality of life in Iran and the wider context of complex political manoeuvring.
Iran’s government is comprised largely of what we would term Islamic extremists, effectively theocrats with extremely conservative moral and social ideological positions. These repressive elements within the judiciary, security and intelligence forces retain much wider powers than equivalent positions in our country.
In 2014, Iran executed more people than any other nation barring China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country is one of the biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists in the world. Their treatment of women is despicable in many cases, in keeping with other Islamic theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
While Iran has not directly attacked another nation, the quality and amount of their military equipment has been undergoing a steady increase since the 1960’s. This is likely due to US influence after the coup of ’53, the reason being that after the Shah was overturned in ’79, there was a 60% desertion from the military.
Iran now supports various armed military groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Kurdish groups. Interestingly enough, Iran had been at loggerheads with the Taliban long before the United States, supporting the Northern Alliance for over a decade against the group and nearly declaring war on them in 1998.
Now, on to the coup. In 1953, the then democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh was deposed in a plot by the CIA. Mossadegh had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP, British Petroleum) and to change the terms of the company’s access to Iranian petroleum reserves. As with most acts of socialism by small developing nations, the United States saw its role to step in, as Noam Chomsky puts it, destroying the virus before it can spread. It’s worth noting that the virus is democracy in this case, and in most others.
In August 2013, 60 years after, the CIA admitted that it was involved in both the planning and the execution of the coup, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, as well as pro-coup propaganda. The CIA is quoted acknowledging the coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
The coup involved assassinations and the use of Nazi and Muslim military groups in the area.
The result of this contemptuous behaviour towards a newly democratic nation coming to grips with what that meant, practically, for its citizenry, was to seed a deep anti-American sentiment in the public mind. It is noted as being instrumental in the 1979 revolution, which replaced the “pro-Western” government with an “anti-Western” Islamic republic.
The current prevalence of human rights abuses in Iran, and the relationship thereof to extreme interpretations of Islam, can be seen as an almost direct result of US foreign policy. It’s almost daft to see it otherwise, when you consider the above factors. To believe that this is more a religious or “Iranian” issue is to greatly exaggerate the power of religious and political life in Iran pre-intervention.
Now why would the United States bother to set up an elaborate coup in the first place? What do they have to gain from the political and social destabilisation of Iran? Well, it seems pretty obvious. Iran had traditionally been one of the strongest and most progressive of the Arab nations, and was increasingly moving towards socialist policy, democratic governance and the kind of nationhood that sees the natural resources of the land as belonging to the people of the nation, rather than foreign moneyed interests.
Iran was in the position, through its actions, to symbolise the independence of the Arab people. If this were allowed to play out unchecked, it’s highly likely that Iran would have pulled trade with many of the foreign owned oil companies harvesting its resources, and that neighbouring nations would follow suit. It’s not unlikely that a unified Middle East, somewhat similar in form to the EU, could have occurred if the democratic and socialist processes at work in Iran were encouraged and allowed to thrive, as opposed to being violently cut short.
I think the nuclear deal with Iran is a positive outcome, especially for the people of Iran and surrounding countries, insofar as it is what it claims to be. If the deal is as it is written, then we should see a slow movement of the Iranian zeitgeist back towards their upstart democratic tendencies. It’s also worth noting that this deal is not, as some have suggested, a United States ultimatum but rather the dissolution of an existing one; namely that the United States was, insofar as I can tell, veto-ing any application to the wider community of nations, by Iran, to embark upon a nuclear program.
We also must distinguish a “nuclear program” from a “nuclear weapons program”, the two are not mutually exclusive and a country can have one without the other. The former is what Iran has been pushing for to meet their energy needs, and like any other sovereign nation, they have a right to work to provide for their people.
One other possibility, and one worth considering, is that the deal is pretext for military intervention in Iran. By allowing Iran to develop nuclear capability, the US can make a pseudo-moral argument based on effectively falsifying some form of panic about what *might* be around the corner now that Iran could arm itself with nuclear weapons.
The history of the the West and Arab nationalism is one fraught with misunderstanding, exploitation and greed, and it has its roots deep in the past. The decline of the Ottomans and the subsequent division of the Middle East along the economic preferences of Russia and Britain were formative developments in the creation of the current forms of radicalised Islam and the theocracies in the region. We can also look to the Grand Area Planning conducted by the US State Department during the war years to give us an outline of the intent of US interaction with the Middle East.
What we won’t find is an individual to bring us through this unscathed. Many are looking to world leaders to mitigate the situation in the Middle East, but I feel this is misguided. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is in an unprecedented position within the United States, having mass grassroots support for a platform of simple, direct socialism, and many see him as being potentially instrumental in reforming the conflict, however he’s just a man. There have been countless great men and women throughout history, reformers and revolutionaries who have changed somewhat the course of history, but the main problems of humanity remain: our callousness, our violence, out hatred, our pettiness.
These are not problems to be fixed by an individual, but symptoms of a crisis in consciousness. We have dulled ourselves, become robotic, conditioned, frivolous, and rarely do we really look within ourselves to clarify the nature of these characteristics, or our relation to them.
So then, to place the responsibility for change onto another we are effectively giving life to stasis, we are creating a resistance to change and binding it to time. How do we extricate ourselves from this following mind, and find the state of being from which genuine change can grow?
I want to put a question from Krishnamurti to you to consider while we discuss this issue:
How is it possible to bring about the creative release of the individual, not only at the beginning of his existence, but throughout life?
That is, how is the individual to have abundant energy rightly directed so that his life will have expansive and profound significance?
Heres his answer:
Our thinking at present is merely a reaction, the response of a conditioned mind, and any action based on such thinking is bound to result in catastrophe.
To discover what is truth, there must be a mind that has understood itself, which means going into the whole problem of self-knowledge. Only then is there the total revolution which alone brings about a creative release, and that creative release is the perception of what is truth.
For those interested in further study, Noam Chomsky has many talks on the subject which I’ve drawn the majority of my understanding from. Wikipedia, as always, is invaluable if you follow the sourcing. Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher who contributed perhaps one of the most lucid explorations of human thought in history, and spoke frequently on the problems of violence and inhumanity in the modern era.