It was the night of August 19 1953, when Iran’s first elected government led by professor Mosaddegh was toppled by the CIA and had installed their favourite puppet the shah of Iran-Muhammad Reza shah Pahlavi. The moment Mosaddegh’ government decided to nationalise the oil companies, which were mostly British and American, the days of his government were outnumbered. It was the beginning of the start of the misconceptions and the long mistrust of the Iranian nation towards the United States. Since then, the Iranian have had seen the united states as their arch enemy which does not tolerate the government which does not suit the American interests. The Shah of Iran was known as the symbol of American interest in the western Asia and in the Middle East. There was a so called modernity in Iran during the Shah’s era that used to serve only the small portion of the Iranian elite which had a liability to safeguard the American interests.
However, the majority of the Iranian people were impoverished and underdeveloped. The western media used to portray Iran under the shah as a progressive and a modern ruler, while the American and British oil companies were busy in plundering the oil sources of Iran according to their own wishes and terms. There were growing realisations among the Iranian nation that the west, particularly the United States was supporting the shah’s monarchy for the imperialistic and economic reasons and Iran is no more a free country. This realisation led to the rise of the popularity of the religious clergy which had the voice of common Iranian people who were at the receiving ends.
Nevertheless, the Marxist and socialist rhetoric’s of Ali Shariati-an Iranian Islamist-Socialist intellectual spurred the spirit of revolutions in the Iranian youth to stand up against the tyranny of shah and the imperialism of the United States. The blend of Shariati’s Islamic socialist ideas with the Shiite Islamic theology of the sacrifice of 7th century martyr of Karbala, Imam Hussein son of Ali who is regarded as one of the most respected revolutionary figure in the Shiite Muslim majority of Iran, won the Islamic revolution for Iran.
After the revolution, the one issue that had overwhelmed the revolutionary leadership was the fear of the US-led attempts to topple the revolution. Therefore, the revolutionary leadership developed the highly centralized system based on the religious lines in order to protect the revolution. The scepticism was not a mere speculation or to gain more control, rather to deter foreign interference in the Iran’s internal matters. It soon became clear when the western powers instigated Iraq’s strong man Saddam Hussein to attack Iran that was prolonged to a vicious and bloody decade of war with Iran. Iran had almost sacrificed one million people in this war.
However, the revolution survived the war and had appeared stronger than it ever was. Similarly, the several attempts have been made by the western powers to topple the regime in Iran. The year 2009 was the culmination of the foreign efforts against the regime when hundreds of thousands of people were on the road to protest against the election results. These protests remembered as a ‘green movement’ in the Iranian history. The revolutionary establishment remember this event of the so called green movement as ‘the great sedition’. According to Muhammad Ali Jafari, the former commander in chief of the Iranian Islamic revolutionary guard corps (IRGC), the 2009’s great sedition was the worst, and the most dangerous attempt made by the west against the revolution.
After the failed internal coup attempts, the United States has had tried to weaken the Iranian government by imposing the economic sanctions on Iran. The economic sanctions were part of the same pattern to instigate the movement for the regime change from within Iran. The last decade has been the worst for the Iran’s economy. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA) was signed with the United States and five other western powers in 2015 in order to bring a consensus between the Iran and the west to reduce the enrichment of uranium so that Iran may not be able to get an atomic bomb. But, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and had imposed more hard economic sanctions on Iran.
It is explicitly evident that the United States does not want to tolerate the Iranian regime and has been consistent in regime change tactics by all means. This has been the pattern with the United States’ global policies towards the ‘non compatible governments. According to Washington post, ‘between 1947 and 1989, the united states tried to change other countries’ governments 72 times’. Such desperate attempts to bring ‘compatible’ governments has had left a horrendous impacts on the peace and security of the global world. Richard Haas, an American scholar of international relations, has recently argued in the foreign affairs magazine that the United States might abandon its idealism and may accept other countries as they are.
In contrary to this, the United States is adamant to change the regime in Iran. This time, the United states-led western powers are again supporting the internal change in Iran after the eruptions of protests at the tragic death of a women, while in detention, Masha Amini, 22, by the Tehran’ Morality Police’. This is, of course, a horrific incident which must be condemned at every level. However, what are the United States’ end goals in these violent protests: the western media has been portraying the on-going protests a prelude to the regime change. It may appear that the circumstances and the context are different but the policy is same: to topple the revolutionary government.
The question remains why the Iranian regime-change is so significant for the United States that after every ten years, the same course and the pattern is repeated? There may be the multiple reasons: the human rights issues; the highly centralised and an ideological government; the expansion of the Islamic revolution to other Muslim countries particularly to the Middle Eastern states; the expansion of Iranian influence from Iraq to Yemen; the Iranian unwavering support to the cause of Palestine and Hamas; the containment of Israel through Syria and the south Lebanon-the Hezbollah; the security of the US allies in the middle East; and the US’ imperialistic and economic interests in the Western Asia and in the Middle East.
The United States has always portrayed itself as a champion of the human rights in the global world. However, the ‘selective’ approach of the human rights has remained the policy of the United States –when it suits them. The issue of human rights may have been used by the United States as a trump card to gain the political interests and sometimes a shelter for the international interventions. Thus, the eastern and the third world countries have always been remained sceptical towards the United States’ notion of ‘human rights’.
There are two main debates in the perspective of human rights: Universalism and the Cultural Relativism. The concept of universal human rights is usually advocated by the United States and other western democracies which argue that there are universal human rights beyond cultural boundaries. The universal human rights may be implemented and practiced in all the cultures without discrimination. It may appear plausible in theory but may appear equally conflicting and controversial in practice.
The school of thought which challenges the universality of human rights is known as ‘the cultural relativism’ which argues that the human rights are implemented and practiced in relation with the cultural norms and values. The US-led western states might not impose their version of ‘universal human rights’ on different cultures and societies, and the issue of human rights may be left at the discretion of the internal and domestic culture of the states. They vehemently criticise the western interpretation of human rights, and also blame the western counties that they always make efforts to implement their version of human rights for their own vested interests. For example, in the case of China, the American establishment always try to put pressure on Chinese quasi-democratic regime on the issue of human rights. The Chinese argue that if they may implement the US’ version of human rights in their society, then they might sacrifice their political stability which could only serve the interests of their western competitors.
Therefore, the Chinese have their own ‘self-created’ version of human rights which is compatible to the Chinese norms and values. Sometimes, the ends justify the means: China has made a miraculous economic progress since the 1970s with their own version of values. Similarly, Iran also argues that the human rights in Iran are solely the discretion to define them and to implement them. From the west’s perspective, the mandatory veil for women is a violation of basic human rights, while in Islamic codes; an appropriate veil is a sacred duty. So there is a clash of ideologies and beliefs.
On the other hand, Iran blames the west for their selective and choosy human rights: they support it when it suits them. During the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was using biological and chemical weapons against the Iranians, but then there were no human rights issues because the US was siding with Saddam. Similarly, the shah of Iran’s secret intelligence agency SAVAK was brutally murdering and torturing the revolutionary activists during the 1970s but in similar fashion, the US kept its silence. The brutal military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya had killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and had created catastrophic human rights issues, the world has had ever seen. It may appear that the human rights may not be the issue; the issue is to fulfil the lasting dream of ‘the regime change’ in Iran.
Iran has a highly centralised and an ideological system of government-an authoritarian system as the west usually prefers to interpret it in that way. The committee of jurists and experts, which is headed by a supreme leader, has overriding powers over the government machinery. Moreover, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite Iranian force which is responsible to safeguard the revolution from any threat, works under the auspices of the supreme leader and is only answerable to the supreme leader. Of course, this is a peculiar and complex system of government which is explicitly in contrast with the western democratic system.
However, the question remains: why Iran has developed such a system? The answer lies in the previous history of Iran: the United States has had always tried to run and to control Iran according to their imperialistic aspirations and has always disrespected the opinions of the Iranian nation, and have tried multiple times to topple the government in order to install their proxy government. Since the revolution, the united states had not recognised and tolerated the revolutionary government and its political system ,therefore, there was a ‘legitimate‘ fear and scepticism among the leadership that the united states would always try to overthrow the regime. They devolved their non-conventional and ‘west free’ system in order to deter the attempts of the regime change. I
t is unfortunate but may appear true that if Iran had not this system of their ‘own’, Iran would have been controlled and shattered by the United States a long time ago. It is advisable to understand and evaluate the Iran’s political system in their historical, social and cultural context where it has been socially constructed.
What is the most worrying threat to the United States from the post-revolutionary Iran? This is indeed an export of revolution to other Muslim countries particularly to the Middle East where the United States’ allies have been enjoying monarchy. The United States’ continuous support to the monarchs of the Middle East my also expose the dual standards of the ‘universality of human rights’ and the expansion of democracy across the globe.
Since the revolution, Iran has become a symbol of Islamic resistance and an advocate of pan Islamic ideology that has inspired the Islamic movements in Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The Islamic uprising in these countries is ought to minimize the western influence on Islamic countries’ resources and culture. The youth of Islamic countries may appear to be inspired by the revolution due to its anti-American slogans. There is a growing realisation among the youth that the United States controls all the oil resources of the Middle East and even rules through its favourite’s monarchs. The United States has witnessed this phenomenon in the war against ISIS: the war was not fought by the states rather the paramilitary militias inspired and backed by Iran.
Therefore, the United States fears from the export of such revolutionary ideas so that it may threaten the Middle Eastern status quo which would ultimately threaten the United States’ economic and political interests in the region. So, if the regime remains, the threat of the export of revolution may not be avoided.
From the very start of the revolution in 1979, its ideologue and supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had instructed the revolutionary mechanism to help and support the Islamic resistance movements in the whole world. Since then, the Islamic republic has been providing support, economically, politically and militarily, to the resistance movements. Iran has been remained a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause and has had provided the political and always has provided military assistance to the Palestinian paramilitary force, the Hamas. The United States has reiterated its concerns many times that Iran has been providing military assistance to the Hamas against the Israel.
On the other hand, south Lebanon has been remained a continuous threat to the security of Israel and has been successful in deterring the illegal expansion of the Israeli regime. The south Lebanon’s paramilitary force, the Hezbollah has been considered a brain child of the Islamic revolution. The 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war was an eye opening surprise for the Israel and the United States after how Hezbollah had defended the south Lebanon against the Israeli attack. The Hezbollah not only defended their frontiers, but also had inflicted heavy losses to Israel. Now, coupled with the Syrian support, Israel may appear to be contained by the three sides: Gaza and the west bank through the Hamas, South Lebanon through the Hezbollah, and Syria through the Iran’s friendly government of president Bashar al-Assad.
The highly contained Israel from the Islamic resistance movements may create worrisome situation for the United States. In addition to it, the Muslim masses from all over the world may not compromise their stance on the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem. Iran has been remained successful in consolidating the Muslim energies on the issue of Palestine against the illegal aggression and occupation of Israel. The United States and Israel know the fact that the force behind these resistances is: the Islamic republic of Iran. Therefore, it may appear logical and rational for the United States and Israel that the Islamic regime must go.
The United States and its western allies have been enjoying an unchallenged supremacy on the economic and political affairs of the Middle East since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The discovery of oil was not less than an economic miracle for the western oil companies. They have had exploited the oil resources and have successfully maintained the political order through their installed governments. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in the Middle East everything is American made. Even the United States had helped to promote a new version of the Islamic theology ‘The Salafism’ that was almost alien to the global Islamic world. It is, now, not a matter of illusion that how the United States has had used this radical version of religion to gain short term political gains in the Middle East and in the other parts of the Islamic world.
According to a renowned British-Pakistani scholar Tariq Ali, during the afghan-Soviets war, the Islamic studies books were printed in the University of Nebraska, the United States, and these books were comprised of ‘out of context’ narrations from the Holy Scriptures to promote the ‘jihad’ among the Muslim youth of the global world. The purpose was to recruit Jihadists to fight against the Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. Such unethical and immoral efforts were made to promote one ‘particular’ version of Islam in order to gain the short term political gains which had deteriorated the peaceful, inclusive and the pluralistic spirit of Islam.
And the Muslim world has faced the catastrophic violence in the form of sectarianism and the religious hatred. Therefore, any move that may alter the course of American interests in the region would directly challenge the United States supremacy in the region. Moreover, since the revolution in Iran, the United States and its allies are busy in circumventing the Iranian influence in the region. The monarchs in the Middle East have been feeling the sense of insecurity with the increasing Iranian influence in the region.
Vali Nasr, an American-Iranian scholar and a senior fellow at the south Asian centre of the united states, had written in his book ‘The Shia Revival’ that the middle eastern states might be feeling the sense of insecurity after the expansion of the Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen . In 2004, King Abdullah Hussein of Jordan had named this phenomenon as ‘The Shiite crescent’. To add to the fury the Yemen war has raised the suspicions of the Middle Eastern kings that the Iranian influence is already knocking at the door. Although, the united States have been providing military assistance to its allies against any probable Iranian threat, yet it may not satisfy them until the Islamic regime is at its place.
While, responding to a question of an American journalist that why Iran interferes in the internal affairs of the Middle East, the Iran’s farmer foreign minister Dr.Javad Zarif responded that ‘we are in the region; it is the United States that interferes in the internal matters of the Middle East and the west Asia’.
For decades, the United States have controlled and operated the economic and security matters of the Middle East through its security check posts and the bases throughout the Middle East. The strategically important security bases have provided the United States an opportunity to maintain its influence in the region. The United States has hundreds of thousands of security personnel’s in 14 countries of the region. This security setup ensures the United States’ imperialistic goals in the region. The gradual increase in the Iranian influence in the region may appear to threaten the United States’ security status quo in the Middle East. T
he most significant strategic point that has become a bone of contention between Iran and the United States is a narrow strip of 21 miles that connects Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, known as ‘The strait of Hormuz’. According to the United States’ Energy Information Administration, the strait ‘is the world’s most important choke point’. About 22.5 million barrels of oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz on a daily basis which is roughly the 24% of the daily global oil production. And around 1.4 million barrels of oil is transited daily to the United States. Thus, the strait has become a geo-economic flash point between the United States and Iran. Iran is continuously taking the strategic control of the strait and the IRGC has reiterated their claim that they would protect ‘their water’ at any cost.
Iran also has threatened to close the strait for the international trade. If Iran moves to disturb the status quo in the strait, it would be a major blow to the US economy as well as for the world economy. The recent clashes in the strait disturbed the flow of oil and, consequently, it had increased the world fuel prices by the 4%. Therefore, the United States has a logical headache of the Iranian geopolitical influence in the region that could disrupt the oil supply, while the threat is increasing day by day with the geopolitical and strategic expansion of the Islamic republic.
It may appear from the above discussion that the United States has an insatiable desire of the regime change in Iran. The United States is adamant to reduce Iran’s geopolitical and strategic influence in the region which is directly threatening United States’ economic and political interests in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf. The United States has a history of repetition of its military misadventures and the regime change tactics to gain short term political gains.
However, the global world has paid a heavy price for the short term American regime change projects. The United States’ absurd and callous foreign policy has created a brutal and deadly chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Libya after the regime change misadventures. These countries were left at the sake of terrorism and the internal strife. In the similar fashion, the United States desperately intends to change the regime in Iran.
It may appear that to secure it’s geopolitical, economic, and security interests the regime change in Iran seems to be an inevitable phenomenon for the United States.
It is evident from the history that those states which may have shown resistance against the American imperialism are destined to face the United States’ tyranny, injustice and persecution. Iran has always survived the American and Israeli’ efforts of the regime change. This time, the United States is using the tool of human rights and the so called freedom for women to destabilise Iran from the inside. The timing is also significant here. Iran’s ailing supreme leader would be soon replaced by its successor. The internal riots and strife may add to the succession issue that may further weaken Iran. This is again a challenge for the Islamic republic to survive against the United States’ backed internal uprising and the social upheaval.
Iranians are by definition a resilient nation: this is again a time that may test their resilience. The destabilisation in Iran may also have dire consequences for the peace and stability in the region that may also have a potential to create a cataclysmic war in the global world. Iran has an effective and an efficient mechanism of asymmetric warfare which it may launch through its proxies against the interests of the United States and its allies that may trigger the vicious circle of geopolitical conflicts.
However, the United States may revise its foreign policy not to achieve short term political gains at the cost of long term violence and brutality. Anyhow, as said by the Germany’s Otto Von Bismarck, God has a special providence for the fools, drunks, and the United States of America.