By Daan de Wit
This article has been translated into English by Ben Kearney
The West and Iran seem to have moved on to business as usual: 'President Obama argued Friday that the Group of Eight nations had sent a clear message to Iran: The world will not "wait indefinitely" and allow the country to build nuclear weapons'. And Iran is again presenting a new package of proposals. The Green Revolution is slipping further and further from the front pages. The recent protests in Tehran are a sign that the revolution is still alive, but it doesn't look like it will be around for much longer. It wasn't for a lack of effort from the West. According to Iran, at least. But also according to some in the West.
The American Kenneth Timmerman headlines 'State Department Backs 'Reformists' in Wild Iranian Election' and writes: 'The National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars during the past decade promoting “color” revolutions in places such as Ukraine and Serbia, training political workers in modern communications and organizational techniques. Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds'. Timmerman is not some leftist, but instead a spider in the neoconservative web. I write about him in my [Dutch] book The Next War - The Attack on Iran - a Preview: '[...] Kenneth R. Timmerman [is the] director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). Timmerman is the author of the book Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, which warns of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program. He says that the FDI 'not in a political debate with this regime [...] We are in the business of overthrowing them. 'Timmerman is umbilically connected to the godfather of right-wing think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute’, writes journalist William Rivers Pitt. One of the founders of the FDI also works for the American Enterprise Institute: Joshua Muravchik. In late 2006 he wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times entitled 'Bomb Iran’ with the opening sentence: ‘WE MUST bomb Iran.’'
Timmerman, the ICNC, Freedom House, FDI, IRI and the AEI are but a few of the players. The group is so large and so active that I devote an entire chapter of my book to the jumble of organizations and individuals that have aligned themselves against Iran. This group still hasn't quite gone into retirement now that Obama has taken office, as is made clear in this report from earlier this week that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has decided to plan for 'major rallies in September to press for sanctions. The push will be coordinated to assist efforts by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to nudge toughened sanctions legislation through the U.S. Congress in September'.
Timmerman sees similarities between the Green Revolution in Iran and the other color revolutions, in which the West clearly had a hand. But is he right? The influential hawk Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to President Bush Sr., was asked an interesting question late last month. To the question of whether the United States has intelligence operatives in Iran, he answered [video]: 'Of course we do'. Interviewer: 'And wouldn't they help the protesters in some way?' Scowcroft: 'They might do. Who knows'.
Also to the author of an article in Truthout entiteld Iran: Non-Violence 101 it is obvious that the U.S. has people on the ground in Iran. He feels this makes for a precarious situation: '[...] the American meddling makes it easier for the Ayatollahs to build support within their own ranks and among a large majority of the population for whatever repressive measures they finally decide to take. [...] Washington does not fund or provide training and technology for non-violent revolutions against regimes it backs, as in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or Columbia. [...] the Iranian activists want to win. At least some in the America government might prefer to provoke a brutal defeat, a Tiananmen Square, to further isolate Iran and bring pressure within the Obama administration for a military response to the Iranian nuclear program'.
Not everyone sees American involvement in the protests in Iran. Not even Middle East expert Juan Cole. In a video interview [5:20] he says: 'I would say that the reform movement in Iran, to the extent that it has a hope of having some success, has to be seen as indigenous. So I think president Obama has done exactly the right thing in reaffirming over and over again that this is an internal domestic affair. The US can't make the reformists win. And given the past US behavior in Iran, you know, setting up a horrible dictator over the country for years and years, it's probably unwise to give the Iranians the idea that Washington is coming again'. He also added: 'I think the elections were stolen'.
Veteran investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger doesn't agree with him, saying [26:55] in an interview that 'without any smoking gun, without any credible information, without any evidence' you can't say that the Iranian election was rigged. [...] I don't think that anyone doubts that in an election like Iran's or the United States there is fraud. In most elections there are. And there may well have been extensive fraud in the Iranian election. But the way our perception of those events in Iran has been manipulated is to suggest that this was a great revolution that was set to overthrow the Islamic Revolution of 1979. That's just simply not true'.
Professor James Petras is also not of the opinion that the Iranian elections were stolen. He writes: 'The covert and not-so-invisible operation in Iran found expression in a failed electoral challenge followed by ‘mass street demonstrations’ centered on the claim that the electoral victory of the incumbent anti-imperialist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a result of ‘electoral fraud’. Western mass media played a major role during the electoral campaign exclusively providing favorable coverage of the opposition and negative accounts of the incumbent regime. The mass media blanketed the ‘news’ with pro-demonstrator propaganda, selectively presenting coverage to de-legitimize the elections and elected officials, echoing the charges of ‘fraud’. The propaganda success of the US-orchestrated destabilization campaign even found an echo among broad sections of what passes for the US ‘left’ who ignored the massive, coordinated US financing of key Iranian groups and politicos engaged in the street protests'.
Juan Cole looks at the situation in Iran from a different perspective [30:00]: 'I think the United States intelligence establishment has almost no assets inside Iran. I think the movement that we have seen, a political protest movement by the reformists, is completely homegrown. And a lot of the people you can see in those television photo's are clearly working class Iranians, women are wearing hijab... They're not opposed to the system, they're not CIA agents. The United Stated Congress in its wisdom dedicated 60 or 70 million dollars a year in overthrowing the Iranian government. I have no idea where that money is going. Obviously it is not actually producing the result'. Cole's advice is for the U.S. Congress to stop budgeting this money. John Pilger sees it differently [24:45]: 'We see the events in Iran and Honduras being quite subtly, but very directly influenced in the time-honored way by the Obama Administration. And yet the Obama administration is given this extraordinary benefit of the doubt'.
James Petras: 'The US-backed electoral and street opposition in Iran was designed to push to the limits a destabilization campaign, with the intention of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, undermining Tehran’s opposition to US military intervention in the Gulf, its occupation of Iraq and, above all, Iran’s challenge to Israel’s projection of military power in the region. Anti-Iran propaganda and policy making has been heavily influenced for years on a daily basis by the entire pro-Israel power configuration in the US'.
Author F. William Engdahl will agree with Petras for the large part, according to an interview Engdahl gave earlier this month [1:20]: 'Fundamentally Iran is another color revolution of the sort that we saw in Georgia in 2004. And in Ukraine a few months earlier, the so-called Orange Revolution in Ukraine that brought Washington's favorite dictator Victor Yushenko in power, pro-Nato and so forth. And several other countries, certainly in Russia, in the former Soviet Union. [... 6:25] The US grand strategy is to maximize chaos and confusion, to take advantage of the economic crisis in Iran. [... 9'45] Obama is president of the United States because the establishment realized they had gone down the road of raw brute power force projection of the Bush-Cheney era for eight years and it stood to lose everything in terms of America's role in the world. They had to put a kinder, gentler face on American hegemony and that face is called is Barack Obama'.
The three layers of the Iran issue
The issue concerning Iran consists of multiple layers. There are at least three layers that need to be differentiated. The first layer is the most recent news coming out of Iran - the images, the rumors. The second layer is the discussion as to whether or not there are Western interests at stake and whether or not Western influence is being exercised behind the scenes. The third layer is one in which I go into detail in my book, namely the struggle between Iran - a nation that wants to be taken seriously, wants to grow and to occupy its place in the region - and the West, which wants to break this Iranian power for Israel's peace of mind as well as for unrestricted access to Irans oil and gas reserves. In his interview, John Pilger hits the nail on the head. He shows how the nuclear question and the Green Revolution are relative minor issues. In doing so he takes the air out of Obama's 'Change We Can Believe In' as if it's a slogan printed on an overinflated balloon: 'The policy is unchanged. [...] The demonizing of Iran goes on [since the US coup against Mossadegh], the lecturing of Iran - which is an extremely politically complex society - goes on. [...] The crime always is independence. Iran is an independent state and has almost miraculously maintained itself, in forms of that we might not approve of, certainly. But it has maintained itself an independent major state in the Middle East. That is absolutely intolerable to the U.S. state. And Obama has not shifted from that at all. [...] I don't believe anything has changed'.
The point that an independent Iran is unacceptable for the U.S. is made insightfully in a scene from Oliver Stone's film W.. In the scene, the actor playing Dick Cheney is talking to the president and members of his cabinet while standing in front of a map on which a huge and empty Iran is surrounded by countries with American military bases. Oliver Stone: [...] we pieced together this idea that, hey, come on, everybody's making a big deal about Iraq, but Iraq's just a small deal in Eurasia. Iraq is 10% of the world's oil reserves, but it's also like, look at the map, man, look at the map. Look at all of the American bases we have all over Eurasia now, and look at where the big hole in the wall is, it's Iran. We don't have anything in Iran. The movie takes place in 2003 in that scene, 2002, so that thinking at that time, you've got to look at the geopolitical picture. Iran has to be the big number. And our behavior toward Iran in those six years is, as you know, very confrontational. We refused to do business with them. They helped to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan with us. They were ready to do business. James Dobbins will back that up. And we did not respond. We cut them off. Bush cut them off at the knees, the Iranians. I'm accused of making that up, but that's just not true. Iran is a big player here. I think a bigger player than Iraq at that time. Now it's off the boards, at least for now'.
Iran's oil and gas reserves explain to a large extent the West's interest and thereby the huge role that this country plays in the media. Energy is an important component of America's National Security Strategy; I go into this subject extensively in The Next War. The real Dick Cheney in 1999: 'The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.'