A Brief History of Iranian Intervention

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

Many people today recognize that the US and British intervention in Iraq in 2003 has resulted in complete chaos through the region. Subsequent wars in Libya and Syria have further complicated the situation. Yet, talk of regime change in Iran continues to be on the front burner in Washington D.C. and London.

These were not the first disastrous interventions in the region. The 1953 CIA-led coup in Iran has had equally unsettling results for Iran and surrounding countries. As if we learn nothing from history, here we are again talking about regime change.

The citizens of western countries have been conditioned for decades to prepare for war with Iran. We've been convinced Iran is evil and that conflict with it is just a common sense eventuality. Most westerners don't know or have forgotten the history. How we got where we are today does matter. The same mindset that says Iran destabilizes the region is the mindset that destabilized Iran over oil profits to begin with.

Here is the history we should consider before we decide to relive it. The issue is not whether we believe the Iranian government is the right the government. The issue is whether or not it is necessary or wise to intervene again, knowing our last intervention helped to create the situation there today.

1901-1951 - Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum) discovers and then claims all of Iran's oil.


1953 - Democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh is overthrown in a coup after nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). The move came after AIOC refused an Iranian government audit of the company to determine if Iran was getting its share of the profits.

These British propaganda pieces (recognize the playbook) describes how a "revolt" has driven Mosaddegh from power and the Iranian people are demanding the return of the Shah of Iran - what the US and British governments wanted. For decades after, the CIA denied a role in the coup. In recent years the truth has come out about Project Ajax.

This video discusses the reprecussions of the coup with the perspective of history.

For decades, the Shah was the darling of Washington D.C.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah (King) of Iran was installed by the US and Britain. He was viewed as a staunch anti-communist and was willing to go along with the status quo on Iranian oil. In return, the Shah's tyrannical governing style of was over-looked by western powers. However, by the 1970s even the west's supposed stooge, had become defiant in demanding more autonomy and profits from Iran's oil wealth.

Tensions increased and The Shah fell out of favor with western powers. 

Again, the west decided it was time for a change, though this is still denied. This time they called upon an exiled religious leader the Ayatollah Khomeni as the champion to undo The Shah. He flew back to Iran with accolades from western journalists and politicians. He was just the man to take down the Shah.

120 journalists accompanied his triumphant return to Iran. Time Magazine, as it had once done with Hitler, named Khomeni Man of the Year in 1979. In short order, the Iranian army turned against an ailing Shah who was forced to flee.

Ailing and without friends to take him in, the Shah turned to his old ally The United States. President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah into the country for medical treatment. This sparked outrage in Iran that led to the storming of the US embassy by university followers of Khomeni and the taking of hostages - a crisis that would last 444 days and bring down the Carter administration.

On January 20, 1981, less than an hour after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of The United States, the Iran hostage crisis came to an end.

Throughout the 1980s, Iran remained a key nemesis to the west. The destabilization of two regime changes had created an Islamic state that viewed the west, particularly The United States, as "The Great Satan." President Reagan remained firm that he did not deal with terrorists.

Then came the shocking news in November of 1986 that the Reagan administration had sold weapons to Iran to help free seven US hostages and diverted the profits from the sales to the Nicaraguan Contras in violation of US law.

During the late 1980s, the US battled Iran indirectly by befriending and supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. The US would claim during the war that Iran had gassed villages in Iraq. Later, when justifying the Iraq invasion, the US would reverse course and blame Hussein for those attacks. The video below shows special US Envoy Donald Rumsfeld meeting with Hussein in 1983.

Though eventually distracted by the alleged threat of old friend Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, Iran continued to viewed as a dangerous player in the region. Increasingly, US ally Israel began using its exceptional political clout in Washington and London for a tougher stance on Iran. This eventually led to Iran being named as one of seven countries that should be target for US regime change in the 2000 Project for a New American Century document Rebuilding America's Defenses

On September 11, 2001 Iran, which was largely viewed as liberalizing and having a growing secular middle class, was among the first nations to express condolences to The United States after the attack.

However, in the 17 years since, rhetoric has grown harsher between Iran and Israel. Iran has been accused of being a state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and in siding with President Assad in Syria. With the destruction of Iraq and a regional balance, US ally Saudi Arabia has emerged as the chief rival to Iran. Saudi Arabia is backed by the US and UK. Iran has worked for form economic and even military ties with Russia and China.

President Bush declared Iran part of "The Axis of Evil." He declared that US policy must be to prevent Iran from developing nuclear power at all costs.

President Obama began his administration by holding to the tough Bush line on Iran. Eventually, he decided that negotiation was the best means to keep Iran out of the nuclear club. 

American conservatives and Israel view the Iran deal as a sell out and not effective. Candidate Donald Trump called it "the worst deal ever." Now President Trump is still debating what to do with Iran. There are still players in the American and British right who have no compunction about war with Iran - remember that PNAC document and what has happened to other members of that list. Regime change.

The long and complex history between the US, UK, and Iran can really be broken down into two big issues. The first was oil. The newer one is nuclear development. While few would argue that any additional nations gaining nuclear weapon capability is a negative, we do have to acknowledge hypocrisy by the major powers on this point. Global denuclearization would be a positive step. Doing as I say and not as I do is an ineffective argument.

The question remains. Has intervention succeeded in the past? How much of a role has it played in the nation Iran is today? Have western powers and western oil companies dealt fairly with Iran? The answers to those questions is unambiguously no, a great deal no.

Intervention has caused the problems we have there, as it has in other places, not solved them. The US and UK need only look in the mirror to see who has a huge responsibility for the fact Iran is not a secular democracy. Finally, it's clear that British Petroleum was not treating the Iranians fairly and the entirely justified move by the Mosaddegh government in 1953 - the one that began this modern history - was a response to that one-way street.

Maybe, just maybe, decades of intervention, regime change, and chaos in Iran should tell us our tactics are not working. It's time to take stock of that fact and try a new approach.

Ray Davis
for 6 Sense Media