Sunday, June 28, 2009

I Walked; Iran

The other day I walked up to the library near my house. On the way back, I walked past a guy I've seen in the neighborhood for years. He owns a couple of flats in the area and is known as a loose cannon. 

Unprompted, he started talking to me about Michael Jackson, and the ridiculousness, as he saw it, of a big deal being made out of his death, when important scientists and doctors die every day without fanfare. From there, he segued into a rather crazy rant about Michael's having tried to change his skin color, and then to his belief that only Africans are native to this planet. Other races arrived via asteroid.

I remarked that this view was similar to what the Nation of Islam believes (or used to, anyway, according to David Remnick's book about Muhammad Ali). 

From there, somehow, he eventually started talking about Iran, and the United States' history of meddling in its politics. He himself is a Shiite Muslim. He railed against the American media, in particular Fox News, for never offering a historical perspective on the current events in Iran. 

He told me I needed to tell my friends and neighbors about the U.S.'s role in deposing, in 1953, Mohammed Mossadeq, a Harvard-educated, moderate leader who had sought to bring Iran's oil production under Iranian, instead of British and American, control. If America hadn't done that, he asserted, Iran would not be in the position it was in now.

Here's another version of what my neighbor was saying, from

By 1953, General Eisenhower had become president of the US. Anti-communist hysteria was reaching its peak. An Iranian general offered to help in overthrow Mosaddeq, and the British were able to persuade the American CIA to go ahead with the coup in August. With very scant resources and a shoe-string operational plan, the CIA set out to remove Mosaddeq. The plan almost failed, and the Shah, never very resolute, had fled to Baghdad and had to be enticed to continue playing his part from there. The army was loyal to the Shah and Mosaddeq was overthrown and arrested. This coup earned the USA and Britain the lasting hatred of large sectors of Iranian public opinion, uniting communists, nationalists and Shi'ite clericalists behind enmity to foreign meddling. Mosaddeq became a folk hero of Iranian nationalism.

And here's

In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran's oil reserves. In response, Britain embargoed Iranian oil and, amidst Cold War fears, invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. After Operation Ajax, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964 Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile, he continued to denounce the Shah.

At a time when, indeed, the death of Michael Jackson seems to have distracted many Americans from paying attention to unfolding events in Iran, I actually appreciated my neighbor's reminder, even if it came packaged in a nutty rant.

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