The Iranian Perspective


The Iranian Perspective

Robert Taheri

January 18th, 2005

Honours Thesis

Mr. Cotey / Mr. Melnyk

Hatred towards the United States of America is spread constantly withinIran. The U.S. and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since 1979. The Middle East is being strangled by the U.S. and most nations such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan are constantly being controlled. There are very few countries in the Middle East without ties to the U.S., and Iran is included with them. Iran has an enormous supply of crude oil, second only to Saudi Arabia. Iran also has the second largest supply of natural gas, only behind Russia. The U.S., along with the rest of the developed nations needs Iran’s oil to be in the market. With no diplomatic ties, the U.S.suffers from receiving third party prices on the oil. Iran suffers too from the sanctions laid down by America. The U.S. has the most powerful industries in the world, including automobiles and weaponry. The U.S. government believes that Iran will push their extremist ways onto others and cause an increase of terrorism. The U.S. has powerful G-8 allies, which can create problems for Iran if these nations choose to forfeit ties with Iran as a result of U.S. pressure. So what are the reasons for the strong anti-American views of Iranians? By concentrating solely on their self interests, the U.S. has created resentment and frustration in Iranby overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian government in the 1950’s, supplying weapons and training toIraq during the Iran-Iraq War, and wrongfully claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The main reason provided by the U.S. in 1953 while overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian government was the disapproval of Iran’s human rights codes, and the oppression of women. Iran was, and still is constantly portrayed in the media as having brutal human rights codes along with terrible punishments. It has been reported that thousands remain in detention, without a trial and without access to an attorney or contact with their families. There are no effective limits on the authority, including public courts, military courts, clerical courts, and press courts. There are many reports of psychological duress, beatings, and physical torture. Many are held in solitary confinement for extended periods. Executions in 2004 were around 104, but most were not reported.[1]Another part of human rights codes being violated was freedom of opinion and expression. The new reform movement of Iran had arrested many opposing figures. Anyone who criticized the government risked being prosecuted. From 1950 until 1955, 25 publications had been shut down, several hundred journalists had been summoned to court and at least 11 journalists were serving time in jail for their beliefs.[2] The treatment of ethnic, religious minorities also had bad policies. Minority populations were expected to conform to Persian cultural norms. Faiths other than Muslim and Christianity were strictly forbidden, especially the Baha’i faith. The U.S. had told reporters that the freedoms of America should be experienced around the world. Human rights codes and terrible punishments were not the only reasons given by the U.S.

The U.S. felt that these inhumane human rights codes should be none existent and action should be taken on their government. Women were and still are second class citizens. Women were 12% of the Iranian workforce, but did not experience legal or other rights.[3] Women could not travel without the permission of their husbands, father, or brother. Divorce is a simple procedure for men, but women must give solid reasons such as their husband’s drug use or abuse, etc. International groups have been working hard to improve Iran’s human rights laws.[4] The U.S. believed that this was a good enough cause for involvement into Iran’s affairs. Iranians truly did not believe that Iran’s different culture and tradition was a good enough reason to jump into Iranian political affairs.[5] The laws and norms in Iran had nothing to do with the American’s and trying to take control of Iran’s policies and resources were their primary objectives.

The U.S.planned interference into Iran’s affairs and wanted to take down the democratically elected government. Iran did not expect this interference and a revolt from the U.S. was not immediately apparent. In 1953, Iran had a constitutionally and democratically elected nationalist prime minister, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh. Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s rich oil resources which caused less exporting to the U.S. Although the U.S. never admitted that their actions were a result of the nationalized oil, this is what the world and especially Iran believed. The nationalization of the oil led to an embargo of oil products. To gain control over the Iranian oil industry the C.I.A. funded and led a mission to overthrow the current prime minister, with help from military groups loyal to a man named the Shah[6]. The mission initially failed and the overwhelming pressure forced the Shah to flee Iran. After a brief exile to Italy the Shah was brought back, for a second successful mission. Mossadegh was arrested, tried, and thrown in jail, never to rule again. These actions led to many uprisings in Iran, many opposing political groups, and a man by the name of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Undeniably, the U.S. governmentimposed a dictator and then increased Iranian oil exports.Iran was now exporting enormous amounts of oil to the U.S. and other western nations. With Iran’s rich oil resources, The Shah had now become the leader of the Middle East. He had then abolished the multi-party system of government so that he could rule through a one-party regime in autocratic fashion. He claimed that it was a response to the Soviet Union’s support of communist uprisings, among other things. This Shah also authorized the creation of the secret police force, SAVAK,[7] infamous for its ruthless behaviour. All of these actions had created uprisings of many underground oppositions, and groups to later be named “terrorist” groups trying to make a difference. His behaviour and pro-U.S. style ruling did not last forever and on January 16th, 1979 he and his wife were forced to flee Iran for the second and final time.[8] This was following a year of extreme pressure and turmoil, including public protests and the creation of the Iranian revolution led by the Ayatollah.Following the Shah’s departure into exile, conservative Muslims including Ayatollah Khomeini, who had finally returned from exile in France[9], gained the leadership of the ongoing revolution and transformed the “Empire of Iran” into an Islamic Republic. By this time, the exiling and new government had become veryunpopular in the western world, exactly where the Shah’s original supporters and those who had the most to lose from his downfall were. The Shah travelled from country to country in his second exile hoping for a temporary residence. First, he went to Egypt, with an invitation from the President Anwar el-Sadat. He later lived in Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico. After two years he was diagnosed with cancer, it grew worse, requiring immediate medical attention. American President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to make a stopover in the U.S. to receive help. When this news reached Iran, the whole nation became furious. This anger eventually led up to what would be remembered in both Iranian and American history for years to come.

The U.S. brought the Shah into America for medical attention, disrespecting Iran by harbouring him. On November 1st, 1979, Iran’s new leader Ayatollah urged his people to demonstrate against U.S. and Israeli interests.[10] The Ayatollah constantly denounced the American government as the “Great Satan” and “Enemies of Islam”. As an answer to the Ayatollah, thousands gathered around the U.S. embassy in Tehran protesting. The embassy had been occupied before, during the revolution, and crowds outside the fence were common. Then on November 4th, a mob of 500 Iranian students seized the main embassy building. The guards were outnumbered, and staff rushed to destroy communications equipment and documents.[11]Out of 90 people, 66 were taken hostage, and this was now to known as the “Iranian Hostage Crisis”. The Iranians justified taking the hostages as retaliation for the U.S. allowing the Shah into America, and demanded the Shah be returned to Iran to await trial. The Iranians believed the Shah was in the U.S. so that the American’s could plan a way to impose his ruling once again. This crisis immediately received international media attention, and was a shock to the Americans. This was when The American’s started attempting different methods of pressure on Iran. Thirteen of the hostages taken, the women and African-Americans (non important) were released on November 19th, 1979 but the remaining 53 were held.[12] One more hostage was released early because of illness. The President Jimmy Carter applied economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran. The most important methods of pressure were ending all oil imports from Iran on November 12th, 1979, expelling a number of Iranians from the U.S. (Most not related to the crisis or the government) and freezing 8 billion U.S. dollars of Iranian assets on November 14th of that same year.[13] This pressure was not working quickly and it appeared that Iran would not give into economic pressure. The American’s has several back up and mission plans to once again impose their ideologies onto Iran.

Documents found during the invasion of the embassy proved that the U.S. was trying to take down the new Iranian regime once again. The Iranians displayed these secret documents taken from the embassy, some of them reconstructed after being shredded with panic. By this time diplomatic relations were steered even further apart. The hostages were generally treated well, but often blindfolded to local crowds and television cameras. This crisis lasted a total of 444[14] days, and led to daily news updates, including the ABC program “America Held Hostage”. The death of the Shah, the unfreezing of Iranian assets and immunity from lawsuits led to the release of the hostages and the end of the crisis on January 20th, 1981. The U.S. has not made another attempt on overthrowing any Iranian government since the year 1953 when the Shah was originally imposed. After the Iranian Revolution, tensions between Iran and Iraq started.

At the beginning of the Iran – Iraq conflict, the U.S. claimed that is was totally neutral between the two nations. Saddam Hussein thought that Iran was weak after the Shah was overthrown, and the government was inexperienced.He saw this as a great time to make a surprise attack. In 1980, Iran and Iraq started disputes over land. Since Iran’s government was only established one year before in 1979 following the revolution, Saddam Hussein had a mistaken belief that the Iranian political disarray would guarantee a quick victory. At the start of the war, the U.S. was neutral with both sides. The international community responded with U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire and for all member states to refrain from contributing to the conflict. The Soviets, opposing the war, cut off arms exports to Iran and to Iraq. The U.S. had already ended massive military sales to Iran when the Shah fell. The U.S.had also already broken ties off ties with Iraq during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.[15] The U.S. claimed that over the 8 years of war (1980-1988) they had provided neither side with weapons. The U.S. stance was that Iran had weapons from Europe, Asia, and South America. Iraq started the war with Soviet-supplied weapons, but needed additional weaponry as the conflict wore on. The U.S. kept claiming they did not provide weapons to either side, but offered financial support to Iraq, because they were “the lesser of the evils”. Following high level policy review of the war, Ronald Reagan was concerned with the policies toward the Iran-Iraq War.[16] The priorities were that the U.S. would call for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, to take measures on improving U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, and to direct the secretaries of state to take measures to respond to tensions in the area. Ronald Reagan was quoted saying "Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic”. Iran did not buy the U.S. statements and believed these were efforts to befriend the international community and make Iran look like the more evil of the two.

When Iraq invaded Iran, Iraq had a huge arms supply and a trained military with increasing help from the Americans. The Iran-Iraq War (also called the First Persian Gulf War, and the Imposed War in Iran) started on September 22nd, 1980 when Iraq invaded Iran following border disputes.[17] The primary reason Saddam Hussein attacked Iran was for dominance and control over the Persian Gulf region. For many centuries there has been conflict between Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Persia (Iran). Saddam Hussein was interested in making Iraq a strong Middle Eastern power, and if successful in their invasion they would be the dominating force in the Persian Gulf region and its oil trade.[18] The Iraqi’s had clear advantages, Iraq had the international help expected to dominate Iran’s once powerful military. Most of the Iranian army was made up of poorly armed militias, but the difference became commitment. Since this was only a year after the Iranian Revolution, the Iranian troops were disorganized after the Shah’s exile. The first attack was a complete surprise, with the Iraqi forces advancing into Iranian territory towards the oil-rich southern province of Khuzestan. The Iraqi army and Saddam himself expected little resistance and an overwhelming victory. Their expectations proved to be wrong as the Iranian forces were passionate.Iraq encountered resistance almost immediately after they arrived on Iranian soil. Rather than pulling down, the people of Iran supported the revolution and an estimated 100,000 volunteers arrived by November of that same year. In June, 1982, a successful Iranian counter attack recovered 100% of the areas lost to Iraq. The U.S. had been worried about Iran since the revolution in 1979. In 1982, with Iranian success on the battlefield, the U.S. made the backing of Iraq official. They immediately admitted to supplying Iraq with intelligence, economic aid, and restoring relations with the government (they had no relations since 1967). The one part left out was the supply of weapons given to Iraq. Shortly after these occurrences, Iraq’s air force started bombing Iranian cities, mainly the capital city Tehran, starting in 1985. Iran countered with missiles launched against Baghdad. In October 1986, Iraqi airplanes attacked civilian passenger trains, and even a commercial Iran Air airliner. Thirty four elementary and high schools were attacked by Iraqi warplanes in 1986 alone, killing thousands of children.[19] Even with all of the warplanes and bombs used by Iraq in the later stages of this war, the U.S. still denied providing them with weapons.

With the constant denial from U.S. that they did not provide weapons to Iraq during the war, Iraq released a 1,200 page Weapon Declaration list in 2002 that proved the opposite.[20] The list provided names of American corporations that exported chemical and biological materials to Iraq in the past 20 years. Many large companies were on the list, including Alcolac, which was a Maryland company transporting thiodiglycol, the main ingredient making up mustard gas. Of the companies on the list, twenty four U.S. companies exported arms alone to Iraq during 1980-1988, not including chemicals and other products used in warfare. The actions of the U.S. led to the extreme being taken by Iraq. Iraq was not allowed by international laws to use chemical weapons in the war, however, excessive amounts of tabun were used to kill off Iranians, being provided by a U.S. company. The U.N. eventually punished Iraq for using chemical weapons after the war. Chemical weapons were not used since World War II. A huge amount of weaponry has been proved to be given to Iraq from the U.S., but arms were not the only products. Much of what Iraq received from the U.S. was not arms. Many of the products were so-called multi use technology items, such as mainframe computers, armoured ambulances, chemicals, and helicopters. All of these technologies had “potential civilian use” according to the U.S., as well as military use. It is not a fact that a large number of U.S. companies provided Iraq with war capabilities right up until August 1990, when Saddam and Iraq invaded Kuwait. During all of this U.S. interference, a so called unrelated event took place.