by Ardeshir Ommani
(Swans - December 5, 2005) From the outset, I must say that my opposition to the policies of the U.S. and the Western European powers must not be interpreted as a support for the nature of the government of the Islamic Republic. Iran is a class society and the government is a clerical-led bourgeois nationalist one. But is the current government of Iran the same as the Shah's government? In what way was the Shah's government different from the current government of Iran? The Shah's government was reestablished and empowered by the US-UK coup of 1953 and represented and protected the imperialists' interests. Hence, its existence depended on the foreign powers. Its foreign and domestic policies, its diplomacy and economic plans were designed to serve the imperialist powers, especially the U.S. Iran militarily was aligned with the U.S. and the U.K. Iran under the Shah was a pillar in the strategy of the United States to dominate the area. The Shah's government had relationships with all pro-imperialist regimes in the world, taken from Israel, Suharto in Indonesia and the apartheid regime of South Africa, to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Shah worked tirelessly against the Soviet Union, and any progressive movements in the Middle East. The Shah's government sided with Israel against the Palestinians, and was a member of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), an anti-Communist military pact for the Asia-Pacific region, that was akin to NATO. In sharp contrast, today the foreign policy of Iran is completely independent from the dictates of the imperialists. It is interesting to note that both Castro and Chávez visited Iran, and in turn, the previous president of Iran, Khatami, visited Venezuela. Iran has been one of the closest allies of Russia, having extensive economic, political, and diplomatic relations. Since the revolution of 1979, no matter who was the president of Iran, the United States has expressed its discontent and animosity toward Iran and the Iranian people and government; in other words, this aggressive policy did not begin with the new President, Ahmadinejad, or the reform president, Khatami.
Why the Reformists Lost
In 2005, Iran encountered many challenges and opportunities, among which was the presidential election in June. In that election, to the astonishment of the Western establishment, Tehran's mayor, the son of a blacksmith, defeated the former president, from 1989 to 1997, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, by presenting himself as the voice of the poor and a symbol of opposition to the US occupation of Iraq and Washington's attempts to force Iran into abandoning its nuclear program.
The background to the election was a high rate of unemployment and inflation, an increasing gap between the rich and poor, and a surge in the shortage of housing during the eight years of the reformists, led by Khamenei (1998-2005). Rafsanjani, like other prominent mullahs, is known as a capitalist who has amassed a large personal fortune, with shares in companies involved in oil, air travel, automobiles, banking and the traditional family business of pistachios. A large majority of the country's business class supported Rafsanjani, with the expectation that he would restart the "free market" reforms carried out during his previous eight years in office. What was called "reform" was entirely privatization of many companies nationalized after the 1979 revolution, à la neo-liberal policies, and large cuts in government food, gasoline, and housing subsidies. In particular, the capitalist class was looking to Rafsanjani to overhaul the pro working-class labor laws passed under the impact of the revolution that gave long-term notice of layoffs, substantial severance pay, and regular wage increases. More critically, Rafsanjani was of the opinion that Iran must settle its differences with the U.S. for the sake of attracting foreign investments into Iran. He was ready to accept all the conditions set by the World Bank and the IMF for Iran to be accepted into the fold of the developed imperialist powers. I would like to clarify I am not entirely against the underdeveloped countries working with world finance capital, including the World Bank, the IMF, and the Western conglomerates, like the European common market. The question is "Who dictates the terms?" I am strongly of the opinion that the progressive and popular governments must form their own economic alliances before getting sucked into the imperialist pacts.
EU's Capitulation to the US Agenda
In the period immediately preceding the invasion of Iraq, sharp differences between France and Germany on the one hand and the U.S.-U.K. on the other surfaced on primarily the question of US unilateralism. Though France and Germany were pleased by the fact that Iraq would be pulled back from the Russian sphere of influence, which traditionally supported Iraq's state industrialization and socialist orientation (called non-capitalist path), these countries were frightened at the prospect of a complete US-UK domination over the entire Middle East. Under the condition of heightened differences between the two imperialist blocks, Iran chose to exploit the gap for its own interests. Using the soft-spoken and wise-man style of President Khatami, Iran took the initiative and voluntarily suspended its uranium enrichment process and entered into negotiations with the three major European powers -- U.K., Germany, and France. Furthermore, Iran not only allowed the unfettered inspection of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but also agreed to the IAEA's demand for accepting an Additional Protocol that permits the agency to carry out intrusive inspections of all recognized sites without prior warnings. During this period of one-year inspection, there was a major shift among the contending forces in the war. The people of Iraq had shown that the U.S.'s unchallenged eminent dominance over that country is becoming increasingly an improbability. Under that condition, the U.S. had to come to terms with the new reality and begin to consider sharing its future influence in Iraq with the European imperialist block. These new conditions have led the Europeans to look for a common ground and strategy with the U.S., including how to deal with Iran. In this regard, Europe has completely capitulated to the US agenda of destabilizing Iran and neighboring Syria and Lebanon. Under the new political contours, Iran not only needed a new strategy, but also a new statesman -- a president who would not hesitate to resist the imperialists' language of force.
US Plan: Balkanization of Iran
As recently as October 25th, ABC News Online reported that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair "has warned Iran that the country will face 'a much more difficult life' if it does not improve its relations with the Western states." Blair went on, saying that "people are asking 'are we going to go and invade Iran?'" Blair then answers the question by saying, "nobody is planning for it, nobody is wanting to do it." However, Blair added: "You don't ever take any option off the table." I agree the U.S.-U.K. and company is not in a position to occupy Iran, given the quagmire that they have dug for themselves in Iraq. But this does not rule out the plan for the balkanization of Iran. The day after Tony Blair's threatening comments towards Iran, on October 26, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael A. Ledeen invited a panel of five individuals who have been nursed, reared, and financed by the CIA and the State Department, to air their separatist plans for nationalities, racial minorities, ethnic groupings, and even religious sects. American Enterprise in its announcement of the conference, under the heading of "The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?", stated that "although Iran is made up of various ethnic and religious groups, few realize that Persians likely constitute a minority of the Iranian population." According to Michael Ledeen, the majority is composed of Azarbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen and Arabs in Ahwaz, a city in the southern province of Khoozistan, where the oil deposit is concentrated. Amongst all the other regions of Iran, I venture that the imperialist sharks have smelled blood in the province of Khoozistan, next to Basra in Iraq and the Persian Gulf with US military bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The panelists led to the platform were as follows:
1. Ms. Manda Zand Ervin, born in the province of Lorestan, a member of the Zand tribe, who under the Shah's regime held offices in several ministries. After the revolution she fled to Europe along with other influential monarchists, who are on the payroll of the US government.
2. Mr. Amanuallah Khan Riggi, who represented himself as the sole voice of the people of Sistan and Baloochistan and claims to be the head of a Baluchi-Riggi tribe in that province. During the rule of the Shah's regime, Mr. Riggi for a total of 16 years was a representative in the national parliament. After the revolution he also fled to Europe and settled in the U.S., waiting for the future opportunities to serve the reign of perhaps another monarchy.
3. Mr. Ali Altaee, who would like to be the voice of the people in Khoozistan province, left no footprint on his background, such as date of birth or previous occupation in Iran.
4. Mr. Rahim Shahbazi, who claims to be the voice of Azaree people, left no trace of his background in Iran.
5. The least information, almost next to nothing, is provided by Mr. Morteza Esfandiari, who is the official spokesman for the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK).
Although Michael Ledeen was expecting to create a front of separatists by assembling these pro-US imperialist individuals, the conference was unsuccessful in accomplishing that task. With the exception of Ali, Altaee, from Khoozistan, and the Mr. Rahim Shahbazi from Azerbaijan, the other three admitted that ethnic groupings and nationalities of Iran have a 2,500-year history of cooperation and integration. Therefore, the conference could not at this juncture serve as a chauvinist tool of fomenting ethnic strife among the Iranian people.
However, there are credible grounds to believe that in Pakistan, next to the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, next to Iran's province of Kurdistan, in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, next to Iran's province of Azerbaijan, and in Basra, next to Iran's province of Khoozistan, the military forces of the U.S. and U.K. waste no time in training and arming the mercenaries and foreign agents for future attacks, when they could manage to flare up a sizable unrest. Until then, these soldiers of fortune remain dormant, but cash their share of the US Congressional allotment for destabilizing Iran.