Prowarprotest_1 1- That Saddam’s execution will be a healing experience for Iraq and that his rule is the cause of the sectarian violence that has torn Iraq apart.  Do the people who believe this know any history at all?

2 – That the support that the US gave to Iraq during its war with Iran at the request of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states is a major cause of Iranian hostility towards the United States?  Do the people who think they know this know any history or are they just inclined to blame the US for any or all evil on earth?  pl

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38 Responses to Mythology

  1. lina says:

    Does anyone really believe #1?
    Re #2: Wasn’t Iran already pissed off at the U.S. before the Iran-Iraq War? I seem to recall a revolution and hostage situation at an embassy.
    History schmistry. Don’t you know there’s a global war on terror?

  2. arbogast says:

    This is what is ruling us (emphasis: ruling):
    The current President Bush, who keeps the pistol soldiers confiscated from Mr. Hussein when he was captured mounted in his private study off the Oval Office…

  3. bill says:

    Can you elaborate on your second point here Colonel?
    Are you saying “the support that the US gave to Iraq during its war with Iran at the request of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states” is not a cause “of Iranian hostility towards the United States”? Not sure I’m following your drift here. It’s not a “cause” of the hostility because the hostility already existed (and thereby couldn’t be caused, only reinforced). Or it was irrelevant and there was an earlier cause. Or the Iranian hostility is irrational, and unfounded. Or motivated by other factors. Please elaborate. Thank you.

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Persian-Arab hostility is of such long standing that it needs no elaboration by me.
    Iranian hostility towards the US in the context of anti-imperialist sentiment was reinforced by our tilt toward Iraq but only that. In fact the US had virtually encouraged the Khomeinist revolution and had only turned away from it when the revolutionaries demonstrated the belief that the US was an enemy. The seizure of our embassy was a pretty clear signal.
    The entreaties of the Saudis and other Gulfies for help for Iraq made our support for Iraq a “done deal.” pl

  5. paul says:

    I too find #2 confusing. I don’t claim to know much, but American interference in Iranian affairs, dating back at least to the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1954 by the American-backed Shah, clearly caused anti-American sentiment. Recognizing this, along with the fact that taking sides in the Iran-Iraq war in the ’80s re-inforced this sentiment,does not make one a member of the “Blame America First” crowd. In fact, America does share blame for current Iranian hostility.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    When one overthrows a sovereign government and replaces that government by her own agents – one has taken responsibility for all that happens subsequently.
    It was the same in Iran as in South Vietnam as with Iraq- all the ills – for better or for worse – are attributed to the hegemonic power.
    The hostility of the Iranian leadeship goes back decades, to Mossadegh, to the disposession of the Palestinian Arabs, to the actions of the Shah of Iran -with whom US had an enormous amount of leverage that she chose not to exercise.

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Persian-Arab hostility was never, to my knowledge, a factor in the the history of teh Levant and the Persian Gulf for the past 500 years.
    None of the wars that modern Iran (since 1500) had fought was with an Arab state or a predominantly Arab power until the Iran-Iraq War.
    I am not disputing the existence of the ambivalent feelings on both side but these feelings were not causes of war in the past 500 years.
    The most you can say is that the newly minted Arab states of psot WWII needed some body to kick – Iran and Israel fit the bill; typical post-Colonial chip-on-the-shoulder behavior.

  8. rjh says:

    I was confused by your reference to hostility towards the US in point 2. The Persian-Arab hostility is long standing. I would have said that hostility toward the US dates from the 1950’s (with the installation of the Shah by the US), with varying degrees of intensity since then. Prior to that the attitude would be one of indifference. We left each other alone and had reasonable trade relations.
    I don’t have a good feel for how entrenched the hostility has become.

  9. J says:

    does that mean it’s time to put some druk in the shisha? sure looks like a shisha moment, eh?
    to one and all have a good weekend and a better new year than this one. may our kids come home from the bush-created quagmire, and the neocons held to account for their spilt american blood!

  10. john stack says:

    The US wants trouble in the Mid East as an excuse to keep their power there for twenty years to “keep the warring parties apart”.
    The Brits used this regularly.
    Same old arrogance of Empire. Shame on you US. You were to be different.

  11. John Kish says:

    I think many Americans have forgotten their own history of regime change in Iran.
    The first democratically elected government that emerged during Iran’s transition from absolute monarch was that of Dr Mohammed Mossadegh, elected in 1951. Iran is unusual in that it never became a full European colony like many others, and Iranians are as proud of their country and independence as Americans are. Dr Mossadegh moved towards nationalization of Iran’s oil, and that in turn led the British and then Americans to launch the first CIA-led coup in the world, which overthrew him in 1953.
    The CIA, in an operation executed from the basement of that the famous US Embassy in Tehran installed the Shah as absolute monarch. That led to a process of absolutism by a monarch who was wont to yield to popular pressure for accountability and democracy, and ultimately to his violent overthrow by a wide range of Iranian society ranging from leftist anti-monarchists through middle-class secularists to Islamists. Although the Iranians may not have got what they wanted, it is also clear that American interference in the first moves to democracy in the country played a major role in a process that has now denied Iranians of full democracy.
    Americans should not be surprised today that most Iranians, including those opposed to the current regime, may still be suspicious of the US government, suspect that its real motives are not freedom but oil, and be quite cynical about calls for democracy. Nor should they be surprised that many Iranians, including secular democratically inclined ones, might see the USA as an enemy and not true friend of the democratic aspirations of Iranian people.

  12. Arun says:

    Tariq Ali in the London Review of Books (copy here : )
    Your opinion on this paragraph, and especially the last two sentences, please!
    “And then there is Afghanistan. Despite the fake optimism of Blair and his Nato colleagues everyone is aware that it is a total mess. A revived Taliban is winning popularity by resisting the occupation. Nato helicopters and soldiers are killing hundreds of civilians and describing them as ‘Taliban fighters’. Hamid Karzai, the man with the nice shawls, is seen as a hopeless puppet, totally dependent on Nato troops. He has antagonised both the Pashtuns, who are turning to the Taliban once again in large numbers, and the warlords of the Northern Alliance, who openly denounce him and suggest it’s time he was sent back to the States. In western Afghanistan, it is only the Iranian influence that has preserved a degree of stability. If Ahmedinejad was provoked into withdrawing his support, Karzai would not last more than a week.”

  13. W. Patrick Lang says:

    With regard to #2 in “Mythology” my point was specfically with regard to the much exagerated myth of the scale and kind of assistance that the US gave Iraq during the Ir/Iz War.
    As several people have pointed out anti-US feeling among Iranians is of long standing and pre-dated that war. The Islamic revolutionaries clearly came to power with an anti-American agenda. I mentioned this matter because it has become “fashionable” among the chattering classes to focus this animosity on that cause. The partisan political advantage of doing that should be obvious. pl

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Babak et al
    OK Make it Sunni/Arab/Turkish/Tamerlane/Mogul Empire/ Central Asian Emirates against Iranian/Shia whatevers.
    Oh, yes, and after that you can factor in the participation of both the Russian Empire and the Raj as players in the Great Game, usually at the expense of Iran (as it came to be called). pl

  15. So Rumsfeld and Bush gets their greatest succes, the colse mouths man who could tell many about their policy activities. They create now martyr Saddam Husajn the victim of occupation. Mayn Pontius pilates thinks that this is turning point of cource this turning point but only to worse iraq american war

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I disagree with your latest post since it conflates and confuses the historical process more than it illuminates it.
    Iran did not exist before the Savafids – it is a creature of the Shia mystical tradition in addition to a state which is based on the dual Shia Turkish and Perisan ethnicities.
    The wars of modern Iran have had nothing to do with Tamerlane or the Arabs per se. Iran’s war were with mostly Sunni Turkish states – Russia and later Britain were late-comers.
    In a way, history of the Near East may be viewed largely as contnuous warfare of Sunni Turkish ruling houses against a Turkish Shia ruling house.
    The war against the Mughals was an aberration in this pattern – largely dure to a mentally unstable king.

  17. ikonoklast says:

    As to the legitimacy of Hussein’s trial, among all the other inconsistencies a double standard for sovereign “brutal dictators” can be seen.
    Slobadan Milosevic was remanded to the World Court for an open international proceeding. Of course he was a white European, and thus better deserving of due process than Saddam, who was in the eyes of the US only another (insert colonialist racial slur here) and who was not entitled to similar judicial rights.
    The whole farce serves as yet another counterproductive lesson on the merits of democracy for the Middle Eastern audience. “Do as we say, don’t do as we do.”

  18. Nand Jagnath says:

    The way you have phrased the issue in your opening paras of this thread makes it sound as if Iran was implacably and inexplicably hostile to the United States.
    Yes, Iranians were hostile to the U.S. before the war with Iraq. But doesn’t Iran have good reason, considering, as many people have already pointed out, that the U.S. had a huge role in ousting Mossadegh and then played an even bigger part in supporting a piece of shit like the Shah of Iran.
    The Great Power games in the Middle East have been about control of its oil resources. That includes the latest Anglo-US invasion of Iraq.
    I look at the Middle East and think, thank god, India never had any oil to speak of. Otherwise we would never been allowed to gain independence as a unified country and given the space to pursue our dreams and aspirations. Britain, the U.S. and various other colonial powers would have played to the vanities of the Rajah of this and the Nawab of something-or-the-other.
    The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is perhaps the price the world pays for ceaselessly tampering with the destinies of the people of the Middle East.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Nand Jagnath
    “ceaseless tampering?” Ah, yes, the rhetoric of anti-colonial victmization.
    Isn’t it time to deal with the reality that all countries ceaselessly tamper in the affairs of those whose activities they find significant.
    India does not “tamper” in the affairs of its neighbors? Before you say no, remember that I know a lot about RAW. pl

  20. Michael D. Adams says:

    “Do the people who think they know this know any history or are they just inclined to blame the US for any or all evil on earth?” pl
    If nothing else the current administration has done a great job of putting the U.S. very high on the list of…, The Usual Suspects, for evil done in the world.

  21. Robert in SB says:

    Nand Jagnath,
    In reference to your comment “The Great Power games in the Middle East have been about control of its oil resources. That includes the latest Anglo-US invasion of Iraq”
    It is simplistic and not telling the whole story to reduce all power games to Oil. The blood fueds of the Middle,and Far East seem equally inspired by Theology. To watch Islam at war with itself in the former of Sunni and Shia hatred, to see Pakistan and India throwing Nuclear threats at each other, to watch the entire Arab world cynically use the so-called Palestinian cause as an excuse to indulge their own tribal rivalries and hatreds, well….

  22. Grimgrin says:

    I think they hate the U.S. for roughly the same reason that any nation decides to make hatred of another semi-official policy. Iran and the U.S. are strategic rivals (at least within the theater of the middle east) and hatred makes an excellent motivating passion.

  23. Chatham says:

    I think most of you have your history wrong regarding Mossadegh. First, it was not Iran’s first steps towards democracy – the Iranian constitutional revolution occured around 1906, and one of the top supporters (and critics of foreign involvement in Iran) was an American.
    Second, the Shah was never a US puppet (he didn’t bow to US pressure to regarding his relations with the Soviets or oil prices), nor was he installed. The affair regarding Mossadegh was one that continued a power struggle between the crown and the parliament that happened several times during the period of constitutional monarchy. The Shah was already in power, but Mossadegh was gaining more and more control.
    Third, the US under the Truman administration actually supported Mossadegh. It wasn’t until the rise in the cold warriors and the switch to the Eisenhower administration that the US decided to go through with operation AJAX. It had nothing to do with oil nationalization, and everything to do with paranoia regarding communism.
    Fourth, Mossadegh himself was becoming increasingly autocratic by the end, and his support was rapidly falling apart. He had dissolved parliament and taken on emergency powers by the time of his disposition.
    Fifth, if I remember right, it was the Shah’s right per the constitution to dismiss the prime minister. Also, operation AJAX initially failing but then being followed by a successful attempt by junior officers to arrest Mossadegh shows that there was some genuine monarchist support (keep in mind Muhammad Reza Shah’s father kept the monarchy because of clerical opposition to a democracy).
    Now, of course I don’t think the CIA operation was a good move, but the narrative that it was the CIA overthrowing a democratically elected government and replacing it with a US puppet shows a gross ignorance of the situation.
    Also, from what I have read/heard/learned second hand, the US is better liked by Iranian people than by the people in most other countries in the middle east. It’s only the more conservative/radical elements that are hostile to the US, which unfortunately, are the ones in power right now (though the pragmatists also hold a good amount of power). Still, I doubt their hostility to the US is as great as it is made out to be, and the US shoots itself in the foot by not engaging Iran.

  24. Robert in SB says:

    Thanks for getting us all straightened out on that… Can you support any of it other than to tell everyone they got it wrong? Also, It probably more useful to consider the situation with Iran in the timeframe of post-WWII, due to the utter rearrangment of Economic and Military power around the globe. Last, your wrong about Oil nationalization, it went hand in hand with Communism fears- They are one in the same. Controlling oil was what made the United States,the free market and the Western economic machine what it is today.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are correct that the Iranian people have moved on as far as Mossadegh is concerned.

  26. Nand Jagnath says:

    India’s Great Power complex has done it no good either. One has only got to look at the creation of Bangladesh and India’s involvement in Sri Lanka and ask what long-term benefit India has derived from either.
    What has brought India international credibility is not its missile and nuclear capability, but its economic growth and prowess in high-technology areas such as Information Technology.
    I believe that India should stop striving for an Israel-type solution, i.e. having overwhelming and decisive military superiority over Pakistan, which is not going to happen and is counterproductive. If only India and Pakistan could find a political solution to their security problems, rather than seeking a military one!
    Robert in SB: Yes, there are many fissures and fault-lines in the Middle East — as, indeed, there are in India. And it is easy to exploit those divisions.

  27. Chatham says:

    Can I support any of it? Sure, read any history book about Iran regarding that time period. It was a constitutional monarchy, Muhammad Reza Shah was in power, Mossadegh did dissolve parliament. Do I have proof of this? Do you have proof that George Washington was the first President? If you want a good book on the history of modern Iran, I reccomend Nikki Keddie’s Modern Iran. But really, everything I wrote is pretty basic and easy to find Iranian history. Most of it you can probably find in an encyclopedia.
    And it was US interest in controlling oil that lead to them supporting the ousting of Mossadegh? The US is not some cartoon villain. It is a country lead by different groups. As I wrote, Truman supported Mossadegh and it was Cold War paranoia that lead to the new administration supporting his dismissal. If the US was so interested in controlling oil, wouldn’t the pipeline to the Soviet Union be of alarm (I believe it was natural gas, but still, shows more of a resource threat than Mossadegh ever did)? What about the role the Shah played in the price control of OPEC? The way the Shah balked at American requests to help lower prices? Does this sound like a puppet talking:
    “You [Western nations] increased the price of wheat you sell us by 300%, and the same for sugar and cement…; You buy our crude oil and sell it back to us, redefined as petrochemicals, at a hundred times the price you’ve paid to us…; It’s only fair that, from now on, you should pay more for oil. Let’s say 10 times more.”
    Compared to this, Mossadegh’s oil nationalization, which would only really of hurt the British, looks tame.
    Also, US involvement in Iran looks like nothing compared to British, Iraqi, and Russian involvement their (and that actually involved overthrowing a democratic government, as well as other governments).
    It may be easier to understand the world as the Imperial US bent on controlling oil, overthrowing the elected government of Iran and putting their puppet in instead to make sure their need is satiated. But even a cursory look at the facts shows that to be nothing more than a myth.
    Two other points I would like to address:
    Iran not existing before the Saffavids – I would take issue with that. Even if you want to argue that it is the beginning of the modern Iranian identity, many Iranian intellectuals, particularly the more secular minded ones, view the Iranian civilization as stretching back thousands of years and stress the pre-Islamic Iranian accomplishments. Some (such as Akhundov/Akhundzade, who glorified pre-Islamic Iran), show almost a hatred towards Arabs, for what they say as them tainting Iran.
    Regarding the US not pressuring the Shah – I beleive they did under Kennedy, and the Shah did open the political system a little. Also, didn’t the US say that the Shah should step down?
    I doubt that the problem is that the two countries are strategic competitors – there is nothing in either countries interests that seems to justify their relationship. I think, and believe that evidence shows, that the problem is mainly ideological. Right after the revolution when Bazargan was prime minister, he met with US representatives to try to re-establish ties, and was subsequently ousted as the radicals took power. When the radicals were sidelined in the 90’s, Iran showed its interest in moving closer to the US, and it recently came out that Khatami made an offer to Bush in 2003 to work with the US on the nuclear situation, regional problems, and re-establish ties. It was rebuffed by the radicals in the US, who, like their Iranian counterparts, eschew pragmatism for an idea that the world falls into camps of good guys and bad guys. Iran, as a bad guy, was (and is) someone to be defeated, not talked to. The same reason the US is so strongly opposed to Cuba, even though that policy is outdated and makes little sense.
    And there lies the sad absurdity of US-Iranian relations. A handful of ideologues on both sides manage to poison the relations between two countries that have no reason to be enemies, but are anyways.

  28. dan says:

    Truman supported Mossadegh – well, actually, not quite, as he positively supported Churchill via support for the embargo on Iranian oil, supplying US oil to make up for the loss of Iranian supplies, and blocking Mossadegh’s request for financial assistance from the World Bank during the crisis. I’d appreciate it if you could point to anything that Truman did in “support” of Mossadegh beyond ambiguous or empty verbal gymnastics. The planning for the coup began in the summer of 1952 – when Truman was still in office.
    Mossadegh’s dissolution of the 17th Majlis was ratified by a popular referendum held between the 10th and 17th August – the vote was a near unanimous yes as the opposition boycotted the polls. The dissolution was legal, constitutional and democratic. It would also be nice to acknowledge that the dissolution of the Majlis was in preparation for a general election. Again, constitutional, legal and democratic – standard parliamentary procedure as recognised in many democracies. Obviously these elections, which perhaps would have “settled” the argument over the boundaries of power between parliament and Shah, never happened due to the Coup.
    His assumption of emergency powers in mid-1952, initially for six months and then an extension for a year were all approved by the Majlis and were both constitutional and legal.
    I doubt that the Iranian constitution provided for the Shah’s decrees being drafted for his signature by the agents of a foreign power – the firman dismissing Mossadegh was drafted by Kermit Roosevelt.
    Mossadegh resigned in 1952 over the Shah’s refusal to appoint his nominee for war minister; the Shah was forced to recall him after 10 days due to popular pressure.
    No one is going to dispute that constitutional issues over the balance of power between parliament and Shah were being worked out – in Mossadegh’s favour by the summer of 1953; however, what is undeniable is that the argument was “settled” by an external agency acting in its own interests, and that this has had “serious consequences”.
    Given that the specific contours of the constitutional crisis arose out of the nationalisation of AIOC, it is ludicrous to suggest that oil was not a factor. It was the primary motivating factor for the British government, which was able to persuade the Truman administration to back it where it counted as regards destabilising the Iranian economy, and subsequently persuaded the Roosevelt administration to directly intervene in the internal affairs of Iran ( Britain’s ability to do so collapsed in 1952 when Iran broke off diplomatic relations, leading to the closure of embassies and consulates and the expulsion of officials ).

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    1- Dan is correct in his description of the historical events in Iran.
    2- Yes, Kennedy’s Admin. pressured the Shah to institute limited land reform – but that program (if there was any other elements to it) was never followed through. I should think because of Viet Nam War US lost interest.
    3- Iranian intellecuals who linearly trace a line from the Iran of today to the Persian Empire of yester year are in a fantasy land – righ out there with Mussolini and his new Roman Empire. They are just wrong; and you heard it from me first!
    4- Iran is not an ideological state – not in the Western sense that you are using. It is a religious state of Shia for the Shia. If you look at the religious map of the Middle East you will note that Iran’s boundaries follow Shia population distributions by and large. There are 2 exceptions: Iraq and the Azerbaijan Republic.
    5- The antagonism between Iran and US are not ideological as such – they are rooted in power politics and the usual power games that states play.

  30. Chatham says:

    Truman (who saw Mossadegh as a bulwark against communism) rebuffed the UK’s proposal. I’m sure the UK was planning it at the time, hence Truman’s ability to rebuff it. Truman pressed for the UK to make concessions to Iran, which the UK had resisted, but through American prodding they opened up to negotiations. Even before, the US had advised the British that they should be more equitable with Iran. The Truman administration was sympathetic to Mossadegh, and part of the Iranian resistance to a compromise was they though the US would help them against the UK.
    Such a referendum to dissolve the parliament may be legal and constitutional in other countries, but it says nothing about it that I can find in the Iranian constitution (if you can find that, I would be interested, please let me know). According to the Iranian constitution, a national referendum to circumvent parliament appears unconstitutional.
    Also, keep in mind that Mossadegh didn’t just dissolve parliament entirely – he dissolved the upper house first since his supporters were in the lower house, then dissolved the lower house when he lost support there. This is what I mean when I say he was becoming increasingly autocratic – when he ran into opposition, he got rid of it, and did what he could to increae his own powers.
    The constitution allows for the Shah to appoint and dismiss ministers by decree. Mossadegh, by refusing, was breaking the law. At best, you could call getting rid of Mossadegh a counter-coup.
    I think we all agree that the US meddling in Iran was a bad idea, but I think you give the CIA mission far too much credit. Kermit Roosevelt and others involved went into hiding as Operation Ajax seemed to be collapsing. CIA chest thumping aside, I think other actors were more important.
    Because the crisis intially arose over British oil interests, oil had to be a driving factor of the US decision? It’s not possible for two different countries to have different
    1. See above.
    2. Sorry, I had mixed up the slightly more open elections in 1960 with the Kennedy efforts for reform (which included electoral changes). Actually, they were two seperate things.
    Regarding the land reforms, they were quite successful (breaking up the large landlords, increasing the number of small farmers, etc), and just one part of what the Shah called his “White Revolution”. Other parts included a literacy corp that taught reading in villages and having factory owners sharing profit with their workers.
    3. No doubt many of them have exaggerated the past and their connection to it; no the less, there is a connection, and it is seen by many as being strong.
    4. I disagree. The reason the area is largely Shia Islam is because the Saffavids ruled Iran. Why are those parts of Iraq and Azerbaijan Shia? Because the Saffavids ruled over them as well.
    From what I’ve heard, both from people that have been to Iran, Iranians, and from things that I have read, Iran is actually less religious than most places in the middle east.
    The idea of the nation of Iran pre-dates the Saffavids. Shahnameh, the great Iranian epic, glorifies Iran, and higlights the Persian language (it was strongly connected to the revival of the Persian language). It wwas written 500 years before the Saffavid reign.
    5. I disagree again. Iranian nationalist leaders were able to both assert Iranian strength and be friends with the US. Even after the revolution, there wasn’t a sudden switch to seeing each other as strategic competitors. The only reason power politics come into play is because eahc side has decided to label the other as the enemy. If it was all about who could assert their power, then why don’t we talk about antagonism between Russia and Iran right now? States disagree from time to time, but I maintain that the current antagonism is rooted in the mindset of the leaders of both nations, and has little basis on logic, pragmatism, or reality.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    2- Yes, I am aware of all that, I just wanted to emphasize the agrarian reform which was the most important part of it, in my opinion. It was an American program that was not pursued – the Shah became wealthier and, as any oil determinist will tell you, more despotic.
    3- The Iranian intellectuals are worng – they do not understand their country, its historical processes, and Islam (which, of course, means that I do.)
    4- I disagree with your disagreement. Fatamids ruled Egypt but Egypt remained Sunni. Safavids pursued a policy of forced conversion to Shia. This policy was very successful: it provided the glue that kept the many different ethnicities of the Iranian plateau together. Without it, Iran could not exist.
    I suppose by that is meant Iranians are less observant? That does not make them any less of Lovers of Imam Hussein or Imam Ali, or Imam Reza. They may not be as obscurantist as their Sunni counterparts and I suppose after years of religious government they are less easily manipulated through religious symbolism and imagery. But that Shia sensibility is there; without it they could not have fought Iraq for 8 years.
    I am aware of Shahnameh but again – how much of a relationship exist between Ancient Greece and Modern Greece? Between the Iliad and Easter Liturgy of the Orthodox Church?
    I am not denying the existence a component of Iranian nationalism that harkens back to the Persian Empire but it is a junior partner to the Shia religion.
    5. I cannot judge this very well – historians will no doubt debate it for decades after relevant documents have been de-classifieds and made public. I know that US had a handicap in dealing with the revolutionary leaders in being politically close to both the Shah of Iran and equally importantly to Israel. The new revolutionary leaders, as far as I can tell, were sincerely and strongly opposed to Israel. I do not see how these antagonisms could have been managed adroitly in the emotional environment of the revolutionary Iran.
    The reason that Russia and Iran do not have unmanageable antagonism is because they have more common interests in Central Asia, in the Persian Gulf, in preventing oil prices to collapse etc. Iran is only marginally involved in the Near Abroad of Russia – mostly in the economic and cultural spheres. Russia is not perceived as a threat to Iran any more.
    And I am not sure what you mean by “logic, pragmatism, or reality”. If those things ever obtained we would not have had teh Civil War in US, WWI, etc. Human beings like confrontation and war.

  32. Chatham says:

    2. The Shah became wealthier an more autocratic, true. But the people also benefited from many of his policies, such as agrarian reform. Agrarian reform was followed through, the large landowners lost much of their power, and many small farmers were created.
    3. I don’t agree with everything all of them say, but I wouldn’t call them wrong. We both agree that Iranian nationalism and the concept of the Iranian nation pre-dates the Safavids; we just disagree as to what role this plays on the modern Iranian state, and I’m not sure there’s any way we can really resolve that dispute.
    Anyway, I was mentioning the intellectuals point of view as to show that there are people who hold that view, and since nations only exist in the minds of people, perceptions play a strong role. Many Iranians see Iranian history as pre-dating the Safavids. My contention is your claim that Iran did not exist before them.
    4. Why isn’t Egypt mostly Shia? I don’t know. Perhaps the Safavids were mor successful in their conversions campaign? Any answer I could give would only be a guess.
    I’m not trying to judge the piety, just commenting on the degree of religiosity in their national identity.
    I suppose you would argue the same thing about other countries prior to their modern incarnations? Other countries that have existed in a unified form in the past, such as China, I would say existed prior to their previous incarnations. Of course there have been changes, but they are not new creations like some countries are (hence my problems with the statement that Iran did no exist before the Safavids).
    5. Exactly my point. The problems that arose between the US and Iran had more to do with the radicals and their ideology than power play. I believe that they were antagonistic against the US apart from its connections with the Shah and Israel. Wasn’t one of Khomeini’s complaints against the Shah that he was too close to the US?
    Again, the Shah’s role in raising oil prices seems to have had a larger effect than anything the current government wants to do, yet they were still close allies. I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said that Russia is not percieved as a threat – it’s the perception of a threat that pushes the US and Iran against each other more than any tangible reason, in my view.
    WWI is a good example – I was reading a book by Kenna where he says that Germany and Russia were convinced they had to go to war because of the threat of the other one, when cooler heads said it was ludicrous because there was nothing to be gained, or any sort of objective. But at a certain point conflict becomes self perpetuating. Again, why is the US situation vis a vis Cuba the way it is now? Lack of US diplomatic relations in Iran make no sense. The root of all of this seems to be a particular mindset, more than anything else.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    2. I do not deny the benefits – but clearly they were not sufficient to prevent a political and social revolution in Iran – too little and too late. Clearly the Iranian people decided that the Shah had to go regardless of the benefits.
    3. Yes, I am aware how Iranians of today perceive of the Iranian history – just like Israelis. In both cases it a myth that they believe in.
    It was the Safavids that did much to resurrect the notion of Iran.
    4 – Please be more specific. China was a unitary state for centuries, Germany (for example) wasn’t. Greece, Italy, Germany, Albania, Finland, India, Pakistan, are all new countries & states.
    5 – It is true that Ayatollah Khomeini broke on several points with the Islamic Tradition as embodied in the works of Al Ghazzali, for example. But, in many other ways, such as respect for property laws, the revival and real empowerment of the Council of Guardians (from the Revolution of 1906) etc. he continued with the tradition. I believe that he perceived the non-Muslim influence in general and the US influence in particular in the affairs of Muslims malignant from moral, political, and social perspectives.
    I also would like to point out that the Western people and governments are very uncomfortable with the notion of religious government. They want to impose their own historical experience on others. Thus, when Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were murdering hundreds of thousands, the Western intellectuals were praising them for ushering in a new age of progress for mankind.
    Over the past 170 years, Muslim polities have become more and more organized and effective in expelling the influence and political power of non-Muslims in their affairs. I believe this historical process will continue and it will succeed.

  34. Chatham says:

    2. True enough, I don’t believe one can buy off political oppression, especially when it is seen as warrantless.
    3. I’m not denying that the Safavids did much to resurrect the idea of Iran, or that the Iran they brought forward was the foundation of modern Iran. However, again, we are using the term resurrect – they brought back the concept of Iran (or rather gave the pre-existing concept form), so there was an Iran before (didn’t the Safavids claim to be of Sassanid origin?). That it was of a very different nature there can be no doubt. But again, the current Iran is very different from that of the Safavids – one could say that Iran didn’t exist until Reza Shah (or a host of other events – the Islamic revolution, constitutional revolution, etc).
    I guess I may have misunderstood your point as being that there was no concept of Iran before the Safavids rather than that the Safavids were the basis for the modern notion of Iran (was this you point?).
    4. The problem I have in mentioning Germany and Italy was that they did not exist in a unified way like Iran did. I would argue that there was such a thing as German people and Italian people pre-dating the current nation states. Of course, there have been large changes, but these identities existed, unlike, say, a US or Brazilian identity, which is an entirely new creation.
    China doesn’t fit so well either, but it did have its historical periods of disunity and foreign conquest, and the current geopolitical map is very different from what existed in the past, so I thought it might be closer.
    5. You’re not going to find a whole lot of support for Mao or Stalin among the majority in the West. Actually, in the US communists were derided as being godless (“under god” was added to the US pledge of allegiance during the cold war to emphasize the countries religious nature); as such, muslim militants like those in Afghanistan were sympathized with, seen as a sort of “noble savage” (looked down upon and poorly understood, true; but sympathized with none the less).
    As western nations are different, their uncomforability with religious government will vary in strength and reason. In the US, there are certain groups that think that religion should have a greater influence on the government. I would say most people don’t mind some influence as long as it doesn’t adverely affect them.
    Personally, I just don’t think religious governance would work so well as it seems to mix something that should be utilitarian with something that should be spiritual and faith based. It also disenfranchises members of the population (see #2 again).
    It depends on your definition of success. I believe that this is one part of an ongoing religious (and perhaps dogmatic/ideological) ebb and flow – one that everyone is part of, not just Muslims, and one whose end (if there is one) is so far in the future that none of us (or our children, or grandchildren, etc) will live to see it.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    3- Yes, that was precisely my point – I am sorry that I failed to express myself clearly.
    “Success” is defined as the stoppage, rollback, and elimination of non-Muslim political power in the affairs of the Muslim polities.

  36. Maggie says:

    On point #2, a question. I just watched the History Channel special “Iran: The Next Iraq” (good job). After the segment on the history of Persia, my sister asked how the Iranians reconcile Cyrus with the current Iranian hatred of Israel and Jews in general.
    So, your thoughts?

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