The repeated abuses of the Iranian people over the past century are among the most egregious examples of American and British violence. The recent escalation of tension between the United States and Iran, where the US is the sole aggressor, represent a grave threat to the Iranian people, the entirety of the Middle East region, and humanity as a whole. It is imperative that people living in North America oppose this war and push for peace in the region and the world at large.
The media always seeks to decontextualize situations and make people forget about the historical record, and demonize official enemies of the US. In the official narrative, the US is always the saviour and the governments opposed to them always demons who must be eradicated.
This is why examining the record regarding Western relations with Iran is critical. Since the discovery of oil in the early twentieth century, Iran has been subject to brutal British domination and exploitation. The British made a deal with the corrupt Qajar dynasty through bribes and fraud to enjoy the majority of the revenues from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) while Iran would receive only a pittance. However, for the British a pittance was still too much to offer a Third World people, and they never honoured their side of the agreement. When the Iranian people asked to examine the British accounts, the British responded with brutal repression through their Iranian puppets. Subsequently, when the Iranian people elected Mosaddegh, a secular nationalist, who nationalized the AIOC, the British retaliated with a boycott and embargo against Iran designed to devastate its economy. Not content with destroying the economy, the British, alongside the CIA, overthrew the democratically elected government and imposed the brutal Shah dictatorship. Stephen Kinzer’s All the Shah’s Men documents this history and the Western role.
The Shah dictatorship was one of the most horrendous in the world. Their secret intelligence service, SAVAK, trained by the CIA, is widely known and despised for its remarkable savagery. According to Time Magazine, SAVAK “tortured and murdered thousands of the Shah’s opponents.” While the North American press often represents the Iranian revolution as a revolt by Islamists against secularism and modernity, Professor Rejali of Reed College (leading writer on torture) writes, “the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was a revolution against torture.” The more popular narrative of religious fundamentalists overthrowing the Shah regime to impose theocratic rule holds up to little scrutiny when one examines the fact that Iranians are much less religious than most Muslims (only 1.4% of Iranians regularly attend Friday Prayers, much lower than most other Muslim countries). This framing of the revolution allows the Western powers to absolve themselves of the blame for the 1953 coup as it completely disregards the crimes of the Shah regime. It often juxtaposes women under the Shah regime wearing miniskirts and bikinis with Iranian women today tragically forced to wear veils. Women and girls living in torture chambers during that time are not frequently depicted in the press.
After the Iranian people overthrew the Shah regime in 1979, the United States was determined to show that there would be severe consequences for resisting American hegemony in the Middle East. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, with the backing of the United States, waged a devastating war against Iran following its revolution. The CIA supported Saddam Hussein in the production and use of chemical weapons against Iranians. To further humiliate the Iranian people, the US downed Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988, murdering 290 civilians and subsequently refusing to apologize for the attack, despite a cash settlement for the victims’ families in 1996. George H.W. Bush infamously stated shortly afterwards, “I will never apologize for America, I don’t care what the facts are.”
Despite the attacks and the degradations that Iran has suffered from the US and Europe, Iran has been one of the most valuable players in regional peace and stability. Iran fought against the Taliban in the early 2000’s and later against ISIS alongside the Kurds of Iraq and Syria. As former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis told Democracy Now in 2018, “without Iran, we would not have defeated ISIS.” As compensation, the US has decided to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The JCPOA involved Iran making more concessions than any other nation has ever made regarding its nuclear program and Iran agreed to full transparency. The International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran complied with the agreement. The US violated the agreement and has further imposed crippling sanctions on Iran to degrade and humiliate the nation.
According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the US press continues to depicts American aggression as a response to “Iranian threats”. The US has continued to blame Iran for attacks on Saudi, Japanese, and Norwegian oil tankers with little to no evidence, perfectly mirroring American lies regarding the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which served as a pretext for the US invasion of Vietnam. Despite media depictions of Iranians as terrorists, there has not been a single Iranian suicide bomber since 1988. All criticisms of Iran regarding fundamentalism, women’s rights, and civil liberties sound completely hollow when juxtaposed with US support for Saudi Arabia, which is far more repressive of civil liberties and women’s rights and whose brand of religious fascism is the inspiration for ISIS and Al-Qaeda. As MIT Professor Noam Chomsky says, “by comparison to Saudi Arabia, Iran looks like Norway.” Anyone who wants peace in the Middle East should work with Iran for regional stability and should sanction the barbaric Saudi regime for its massive internal human rights violations as well as its genocidal war in Yemen, which has been internationally condemned as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”). Everyone must say: no sanctions, no war, peace with Iran.