Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Neocon Historical Revisionism Revisited: the Case of Iran

UPDATED with additional links

This image has already received a good airing in the blogosphere; following on the heels of Cheney’s near-sensible statements back in 1994 about the lunacy of invading and occupying Iraq, I thought it might be worthwhile to air again in service of a timely reminder about another Orwellian neoconservative policy backflip, this time on Iran and its national ambitions to go nuclear.

(NB. A colleague informed me the other day that former governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten had wryly observed that the prefix “neo” before a word might as well mean “not” in these times, particularly as they pertain to the terrible twins neocon and neoliberal. That is, neocons are really not true conservatives at all, neoliberals are really not genuine small ‘l’ liberals in the classical sense. I agree). See also this collection of newspaper articles and advertisements from the 1970s that clearly indicates European and US support for the Iranian nuclear program.

The above is an advertisement commissioned by US energy companies advocating nuclear energy for the US. It features the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was brought to power after 1953 after a CIA-supported coup ousted democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The Shah was in turn deposed with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Iranian nuclear programme was launched with the active input of the US in the 1950s. Iran was urged to invest its oil profits in expensive US nuclear technology, on the rationale that Iran’s oil was a finite resource and going nuclear was an energy investment for the longer-term future.

In 1959, the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) was established, equipped with a U.S.-supplied, 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor which became operational in 1967. Iran (unlike Israel) signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970.

According to a recently declassified State Department memo [source], the Nixon administration sent the chairwoman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, Dixy Lee Ray, to Tehran in May 1974 to offer her agency’s services as a “clearinghouse” for Iranian investments. Two months earlier in March, the Shah had announced plans to build up to 23 reactors or nuclear power stations by the year 2000, with US collaboration. The plants would cover domestic energy needs and free up oil for export.

This policy continued into the Ford administration. A 1976 directive signed by President Ford involved a deal to sell the Iranian government a U.S. built reprocessing facility for plutonium extraction from nuclear reactor fuel. This deal significantly involved reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis, in other words, it involved the complete nuclear fuel cycle.

At the time of the Ford administration’s support of the Shah’s nuclear programme, the White House Chief of Staff was none other than Dick Cheney. Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were also office-holders in the Ford administration, all making the opposite argument to the one today as even the WaPo highlights.

This might invite the counterargument that the relations between the countries have dramatically changed and the strategic circumstances are now different. If they are different, it is more by ideological design and willful neglect on the part of the neocons than anything else ( the “wipe off the map” canard; Israeli Likudnik warpimping).

The revelation last year that Bush administration officials were overruled by higher-ups when Iranian officials actually offered nuclear talks and strategic assistance in 2002-3 also supports this. As Gareth Porter reported last year in Neo-con cabal blocked 2003 nuclear talks (Asia Times, 30 March 2006):

The George W Bush administration failed to enter into negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program in May 2003 because neo-conservatives who advocated destabilization and regime change were able to block any serious diplomatic engagement with Tehran, according to former administration officials. … Lawrence Wilkerson, then chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell, said the failure to adopt a formal Iran policy in 2002-03 was the result of obstruction by a “secret cabal” of neo-conservatives in the administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Of course, the fact that Iran has decided to collaborate with Russia and poses a threat not to Israel’s existence but to its regional and nuclear hegemony are also factors that weigh in. Nor am I unaware of the abuses of Iran’s theocracy; they, too, should be addressed, just like those of the current United States regime, but they are not in themselves causes for war.

Iran, it is worth repeating, has never threatened the US. Nor has it ever threatened Israel’s existence (the propagated myth of President Ahmadinejad’s purported “wipe of the map” comment is an acknowledged mistranslation; Iranian Jews also number in their tens of thousands in Iran and are proud Iranians happily residing there as a continuous community for hundreds of years.

In contrast, the Likudnik-steered Bush administration has repeatedly threatened Iran with nuclear first strikes. In 2002, the US Nuclear Posture Review envisioned the use of nuclear weapons on a first strike basis, even against non-nuclear armed states, in a policy of “offensive deterrence”. We recall that when questioned about the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, President Bush responded that “All options were on the table”.

I have but briefly sketched the contours here to accompany the image centrepiece; for further reading see here for a list of related available papers by the Oxford Research Group and here for a timeline of Iran’s nuclear program. I have also appended a table that compares contrasts Anglo-American and Iranian aggressive acts:

Adapted from Krysstal

Year Acts Committed by USA-UK on Iran Acts Committed by Iran on USA-UK
1920s and 1930s * UK control of Iran’s oil.
* UK pressure on the king of Iran to exclude other powers from development.
1941-1942 * UK, USA and Russia occupy Iran and exile the king, placing his son on the throne.
1945 * Departure of foreign troops but no compensation as previously promised.
1953 * UK and USA remove democratically elected government and replace with dictator (The Shah of Iran).
1957 * USA sets up and trains Shah’s secret police, SAVAK.
1979 * Iran overthrows the Shah who flees to the USA.
* After the USA refuses to return the Shah, Iran takes 52 USA embassy staff hostage for 444 days.
1980 * USA and UK arm Iraq when it invades Iran.
* USA fails to back UN condemnation of invasion.
1987 * USA seizes Iranian ship in international waters.
1988 * USA bombs oil facilities in Iran.
* USA warship shoots down Iranian passenger plane killing 286 people.
1995 * USA imposes sanctions on Iran.
2002 * USA threatens Iran with regime change
2007 * USA takes 5 Iranian diplomats hostage in Iraq. (Jan 2007 – ?)
2007 * USA considers designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a significant but semi-autonomous part of the Iranian armed forces, a “terrorist” organisation.* USA pressures European and Asian companies to apply economic boycotts and sanctions to squeeze Iran economically at Israel’s urging. * Iran captures 15 UK sailors in disputed wars and holds them for 13 days, releasing them after reasonable treatment.


Also worth checking out — recommended:

Related links at Reclaiming Space

4 comments on “Neocon Historical Revisionism Revisited: the Case of Iran

  1. Dean
    20 August, 2007

    I understand what Israel gains by inciting war between the U.S. and Iran. Israel needs to draw attention away from its colonies growing in the West Bank and the economic strangulation of Palestine, which are the root causes of injustice. Relatively speaking – what Israel is doing to Palestine is much more horrifying to me than any evil in Iran, no matter how darkly the neocons paint it. The Iranians aren’t the ones perpetrating genocide each and every day. Israel is doing that right out in the open without any help from Iran at all. And when Iran speaks out against injustice they are demonized by the American administration for advocating justice.

    So I understand why Israel wants to distort reality and accuse Iran of all kinds of atrocities without a shred of proof. But I don’t understand why American politicians go along with it. If all the Southern evangelicals and all the Zionist Jews pooled their votes for either party, they do not represent a significant plurality. They are a vocal minority receiving disproportionate consideration to their numbers compared to the larger interests of of the United States. There has to be something else that causes the U.S. Congress to unanimously approve a countless succession of Israel starvation campaigns against Palestine.

    We know what Israel gets out of selling obfuscation and fear and uncertainty and doubt. But what do the Americans get out of it?

  2. homeyra
    20 August, 2007

    Another reminder.

  3. Dean
    20 August, 2007

    Thank you, Homeyra. That’s a possible explanation, but it doesn’t explain completely why Congress follows the neocon agenda. We can deduce what’s in it for Cheney and Haliburton. Bush and Cheney’s behavior can be explained by self interest and greed. There is probably some back channel kick back system from U.S. contactors to the Bush foundation. But that explanation does not account for the unanimity of opinion in Congress. We never see complete agreement on any other subject that Congress addresses. It just doesn’t explain why more than six hundred representatives, who can have access to the best information sources on the planet if they demand it, can be so easily manipulated.

    It’s hard to believe that everyone who gets elected has a complete lobotomy after they take the oath of office. It is possible, but I don’t believe it’s probable.

    There must be some other explanation.

  4. finebeer
    21 August, 2007

    Remember that ol’ quote from Carl Becker, cited at Reclaiming Space here:

    “Whether arguments command assent or not depends less upon the logic that conveys them than upon the climate of opinion in which they are sustained.”

    The unanimity of opinion is relentlessly produced and kept up by a contrived climate of opinion shaped by the Likudnik Zionists. They are represented out of all proportion in ownership of Hollywood and vast mainstream media holdings, which are crucially of course the strategic “consensus reality”-producing sectors that manufacture that “climate of opinion”. This has a large hand in determining what is deemed the prevailing orthodoxy and what is deemed heresy.

    All great truths may start off as heresies, but its the Israel-first Lobby’s job to see that the truth stays that way for as long as possible.

    The truth is that it is Israel that has been actively threatening several of its neighbors, not Iran.

    The truth is that it is Israel that is trying to actively wipe Palestine off the map.

    The truth is that it is Israel that pushed the US into war in Iraq, a war in large part for Israel, whose regional strategic “interests” are propagated as one and the same as US interests.

    Lest we forget the USS Liberty or AIPAC agents whose first and primary loyalty is to Israel, not the United States.

    Eventually, however, the truth will out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"