[Marxism] The American imperialist mentality: the Iran story from Harry Truman to modern Neocons

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Sat Feb 14 04:42:14 MST 2004

In his letter to Secretary of State James Byrnes on January 5, 1946,
President Harry Truman's rhetoric was strong when he wrote:  "I think we
ought to protest with all the vigor of which we are capable [against] the
Russian program in Iran. There is no justification for it. (...) When you
went to Moscow you were faced with another accomplished fact in Iran.
Another outrage if ever I saw one. Iran was our ally in the war. Iran was
Russia's ally in the war. Iran agreed to the free passage of arms,
ammunition and other supplies running into millions of tons across her
territory from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. Without these supplies,
furnished by the United States, Russia would have been ignominiously
defeated. Yet now Russia stirs up rebellion and keeps troops on the soil of
her friend and ally, Iran. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Russia
intends an invasion of Turkey and the seizure of the Black Sea Straits to
the Mediterranean. Unless Russia is faced with an iron fist and strong
language another war is in the making. Only one language do they
understand-"How many divisions have you?". I do not think we should play
compromise any longer. We should refuse to recognize Rumania and Bulgaria
until they comply with our requirements; we should let our position on Iran
be known in no uncertain terms and we should continue to insist on the
internationalization of the Kiel Canal, the Rhine-Danube waterway and the
Black Sea Straits and we should maintain complete control of Japan and the
Pacific. We should rehabilitate China and create a strong central government
there. We should do the same for Korea."

Plans were actually laid to use nuclear bombs in Manchuria, the Korean
peninsula and China, but Truman desisted. In June 1950, Eisenhower suggested
use of two atomic bombs in the Korea area. In July 1950, MacArthur suggested
plan to use atomic bombs to 'isolate the battle fields". On November 30,
1950, President Truman said in a press conference: "There had always been
active consideration of its use". On December 24 1950, MacArthur provided a
list of 'retaliation targets' in China and North Korea, requiring two dozen
nuclear bombs. In January 1953, US tested its first tactical nuclear weapon,
and its use  against military targets "affecting operations in Korea" was
considered. In February 1953, in a NSC meeting, President Eisenhower
suggested the Kaesong area of North Korea as an appropriate demonstration
ground for a tactical nuclear bomb-- it provided, he said, "a good target
for this type of weapon".

On May 19 1953, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended direct air and naval
operations against China, including the use of nuclear weapons. The National
Security Council endorsed the JCS recommendation the next day. John Foster
Dulles, visiting India, told Nehru to deliver a message to Zhou Enlai: if
peace was not quickly reached, then the US armed forces would begin to bomb
north of Yalu, and US had recently tested atomic shells. US forces
threatened China with nuclear weapons again in 1959. President Kennedy
likewise considered using nukes to bomb Chinese nuclear facilities in early
1960s, when China was on the verge of exploding its own bomb, but JFK was
assassinated and then the plans were dropped by President Johnson. Facing
nuclear threat, Mao Tse Tung argued China must have its own nuclear weapons,
and in 1964, China exploded its first A-Bomb.  In 1967, it exploded its
first H-Bomb, since then, China has developed an arsenal of strategic and
tactical nuclear weapons. This is just to say that the United States itself
bears chief responsibility for nuclear proliferation. But what about the
imperialist attitude towards Iran ? In reality, American corporate interests
were behind Truman's rhetoric. It was the voice of Capital talking.

During world war 2, the British had controlled oil resources in Iran and
Iraq, while the USA controlled deposits in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian
concession was held by BP since 1909. BP had developed important European
markets, and Iranian oil was considered vital to the Western European
economy. But Iran became progressively dissatisfied with the amount of
income from BP. In 1947, the Iranian parliament renegotiated the concession.
The Supplemental Oil Agreement of 1949 provided a  better deal for Iran than
any other oil producer in the Middle East. But in 1950,  the Oil Commission
of the Iranian Parliament recommended its rejection nevertheless. BP refused
to budge, rejected a parity deal, and colluded with the Americans. In 1951,
the oil industry was nationalised.

Mossadeq's Iranian national front movement, an anti-imperialist coalition of
small parties, effectively ended British economic domination in Iran.
However, the Tudeh communists were against Mossadeq's nationalisation
programme, among other things because the Kremlin aimed to secure oil
concessions in Northern Iran. So then the Tudeh depicted the National
Frontists as "stooges of American imperialism".

For its part, the US Defence Department had advised the Iranian army during
the war, and subsequently provided it with training. Having gained that
influence, the US encouraged the national front in its agitation against the
British, while simultaneously maintaining its support of the Shah and the

In August 1953, a pro-Shah demonstration was staged in Tehran, ostensibly
against plans of the Tudeh to declare Iran a republic. This prompted a coup,
and Zahedi took over from Mossadeq as premier. Next, the Shah returned to
Iran, and BP restored its control over the Iranian oil fields, but now
together with American companies (BP gained a 40% interest, but five major
American companies who later joined ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco gained
another  40% stake, and eight small US oil companies the rest).

But in reality, the 1953 coup had been rigged by the CIA, together with
British intelligence, since the US and Britain both sought to maintain the
West's control over Iranian oil, but the official justification for the coup
was the threat of a "communist
take-over". Thus, prior to the coup, CIA officers worked directly with
royalist Iranian military officers, wooed the Shah, fomented a campaign of
bombings which were blamed on the Tudeh communists, and they infiltrated the
Iranian press.

Brigadier General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the father of the American general
who led Allied troops during the first Gulf War, played a role in this coup.
Schwarzkopf senior had worked with the Shah's palace security
forces and helped solicit Eisenhower's support for the coup, persuading him
that it could succeed.

Anxieties about "communist aggression" that American and British propaganda
waffle stoked up, provided a useful rationale for imperialist expansion.
Eisenhower and Dulles, like Truman before them, saw every upheaval in the
Middle East as a test-case of the US ability to counter the foreign policy
of the USSR.  But Dulles rejected the Truman Doctrine, shifting the emphasis
from reliance on "local defensive power" to "deterrent power".

The Eisenhower Doctrine, born in 1956, authorised some $200 million for
military and economic aid to defend US oil interests in the Middle East, and
after 1958, under the Central Treaty Organisation, the US affirmed it would
continue to supply military and economic aid to Iran to preserve the status
quo. In all, an amount equal to about US$20 billion of American financial
aid was granted to the Shah's government in 1953-1979, and the Iranian
military became the main tool for US foreign policy.

What did it all mean in human terms ? Mass murder and terror. Between 1946
and 1972, over 11,000 Iranian military personnel were actually trained
the USA, thousands of Iranian political activists were simply gunned down or
officially executed within Iran, and in 1953-1979 more than half a million
Iranians were imprisoned for political reasons. Those dissidents who could,
fled to overseas countries. Now the American want to use Iranian dissidents
overthrow the new regime in Iran, playing on Iranian animosities dating from
the time of the Iranian revolution.

The Shah argued with US officials from the start that the success of the
National Front in 1951-1953 could have been avoided, if the US had provided
more financial aid, and in fact, in 1959, the US signed another special
bilateral security deal with Iran, reinforcing its commitment to defend the
Shah's rule. This move simply disregarded the significance of political
dissent in Iran, and equated Iran's stability with the Shah's ability to
keep the lid on any would-be opposition.

But in reality, the Shah had very little popular support, and therefore his
real aim was to expand his coercive state apparatus, especially when, in the
early 1960s, National Front and religious opposition gained strength. The
Kennedy government however rejected most of the Shah's demands for more
military support; instead Kennedy sought social reforms in Iran to enlarge
the Iranian middle class, and thus head off any mass workers' and peasants'
opposition. Thus, the Shah launched the "White Revolution" from the throne,
but he also expanded the SAVAK murder machine at the same time, which
arrested, brutally tortured and executed masses of dissidents.

In an uprising on June 5, 1963, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, about 15,000
Iranians were shot down in mass killings in Tehran, Shiraz and Qom. The Shah
blamed "reactionary mullahs" for it, but in reality, the real cause was
three years of economic depression, which had hurt the urban poor
intolerably. Subsequently, the Nixon Doctrine, which allowed unlimited sales
of conventional weapons to non-Western countries, gave the Shah everything
he wanted, and he could pay for it too.

US Senator Ribicoff explained in 1977 that "Iran is one of the most
important allies the United States has. When you realize that 50 percent of
the world's oil comes through the Straints of Hormuz and the only armed
forces to protect it are Iran's, to refuse him arms would be sheer stupidity
on the part of the United States."

In 1978, Jimmy Carter announced that Iran was "an island of stability." A
CIA report in fact told Carter that "Iran is not a revolutionary or even
pre-revolutionary situation" and that the opposition did not have "the
capacity to be more than troublesome." Not long after that report, the
revolution began, making a mockery of the "analysis". In the subsequent
Iran-Iraq war, American weaponry played a crucial role in the barbaric mass

It looks like history is repeating itself these days, although in a more
lawless manner. It is on record that, just after the terrorist attacks of
Sep. 11, 2001 the Pentagon leadership, without notifying the State
Department, the NSC, or the CIA, convened its advisory Defense Policy Board,
headed by Richard Perle, to discuss attacking Iraq. The three agencies were
not informed either about a trip taken immediately afterward by former CIA
director and DPB member James Woolsey to London, to gather intelligence
about a non-existent link between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Osama
bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

But, interestingly, Iran-Contra alumnus weirdo Michael Ledeen (a Perle/Ollie
North type crony, currently resident scholar at the Neocon American
Enterprise Institute) also renewed ties with his old acquaintance, Manichur
Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms hustler proposed as middleman in the
arms-for-hostages deals between the NSC's former chief Oliver North, the
head of the Iran Contra swindle, and the so-called ''moderates'' in the
Iran. Ledeen's story illustrates the kind of mentality that inspires the
foreign policy ideas of the Republicans.

In the mid-1980s, when Ledeen worked for the NSC, he had clashed with the
CIA over his attempt with Israeli spy David Kimche to secure the release of
US hostages in Beirut through Ghorbanifar. Despite Ledeen's assessment of
Ghorbanifar as "one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever
known", he failed four lie detector tests administered by the CIA, which had
long warned that the Iranian "should be regarded as an intelligence
fabricator and a nuisance".  Ledeen wrote up his experience  in his book
"Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair".

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who favours "regime
change" in Iran (regime change is just a eupheminism for imperialism),
actually tried to block sensitive talks between Teheran and Powell's State
Department on co-operation over al-Qaeda and other pressing issues affecting
Afghanistan and Iraq.  Some of Feith's senior aides, including Harold Rhode
and Larry Franklin held several unautorised meetings with Ghorbanifar in
Paris, and Ledeen subsequently passed allegations to the Bush
administration, that enriched uranium was being smuggled from Iraq into Iran
five years ago, whipping up more panic. Ledeen claimed the CIA had failed to
aggressively check out the allegations, because of its distrust of

"We are now engaged in a regional struggle in the Middle East, and the
Iranian tyrants are the keystone of the terror network,"
Ledeen argued. "Far more than the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the defeat of
the mullahcracy and the triumph of freedom in Tehran would be a truly
historic event and an enormous blow to the terrorists." Whereas US foreign
policy officially does not support regime change in Iran, and the State
department seeks a negotiated approach, the objective of the Pentagon
hardliners is typically to antagonize Iran in various ways so that they get
frustrated, and then by their reactions, harden US policy and public opinion
against them. Secretary of State Colin Powell complained to Rumsfeld about
Feith's policy shop conducting missions counter to official US policy,
arguing for a more nuanced, realistic approach.

But what does this realism consist in then ? Essentially, covert and open
political subversion through secret missions and slush funds. The US
Congress approved US government funding to help subvert Iran's elected
government, by providing money for dissidents in Iran through the so-called
"omnibus spending bill" proposed by Senator Brownback, a Kansas Republican.
The programme suggests about $1.5 million to support the efforts of Iranians
and Iranian organizations aiming to democratise the Tehran government. The
State Department can use these funds for "making grants to educational,
humanitarian, and nongovernmental organizations and  individuals inside Iran
to support the advancement of democracy and human  rights in Iran". The US
government has also approved other funds, through the National Endowment for

Since the Iranian revolution, the United States maintains economic sanctions
against Iran, which prohibit funds from being spent on Iranian goods, and
outlaws financial transactions with individuals inside the country. While in
an agreement
signed in Algiers in 1981, the USA had named Switzerland to represent its
interests in Iran, and pledged not to meddle in the internal affairs of the
Iranian regime, in 1996 the New York Times nevertheless reported that $18
million was to be spent on covert activities designed to weaken the Islamic
regime's grip on power. US intelligence agencies are also active in Iran,
seeking to mobilise Iranian neo-liberals and the youth. The neoconservative
rhetoric is aimed specifically at the "anti-democratic mullahcracy",
"harbouring terrorists", "secret nuclear weapons" and all sorts of nonsense.
The political meddling is really about strategic control over oil and gas
resources and military dominance. In reality, a lot of US corporations have
being doing business in Iran regardless of any legal formality stipulated by

Together with Morris Amitay, a former top lobbyist for the most powerful
pro-Israel lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, Ledeen co-founded a new group, called the Coalition for Democracy
in Iran (CDI), which wants Congress to approve a bill that would, among
other things, provide $50 million in aid to Iranian exile groups and
opposition forces in Iran. Ledeen thinks that Iran is "the mother of modern
terrorism". In the late 1970s, when he consulted for Italian military
intelligence, he raked up Billy Carter's deals with Muammar Gaddafi to the
great satisfaction of Republicans, who were stepping up their campaign
against Jimmy Carter. It's all about intrigue, paranoia, casting aspersions
on people, porjecting hidden enemies, and so on. This happens because these
people are unable to articulate and express an honest and principled
political policy. And they cannot formulate that policy because they cannot
make any serious political analysis.

The Ledeen neocon types are a really cookey gang. Ledeen's own alleged ties
to the P-2 Masonic Lodge have been a source
of speculation and intrigue. Ledeen himself returned to Washington in 1981
as "anti-terrorism" advisor to the new secretary of state, Al Haig. He used
his position as consultant to Haig, the Pentagon and the National Security
Council under Ronald Reagan, to spread the notion of global terrorist
conspiracies. It is this kind of theme that Bush is still trying to whip up
to justify the military gravy train. When you really think that through,
then you can recognise how evil this conceit is, from the point of view of
longterm human survival.

There is always another conspiracy or a terrorist hiding somewhere, it's
paranoia converted into a political stance. The KGB was according to Ledeen
supposed to have been behind the 1981 attempted assassination by Turkish
right-winger, Mehmet Ali Agca, of Pope John Paul II.  Ledeen hates the CIA,
because they never accepted any "Bulgarian Connection". Besides AEI, Ledeen
is also involved in the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, an
group that promotes US funding for Israeli  militarism, he served on the
board of the US "Committee for a Free Lebanon", and took an organizing role
in CDI.

The Ledeen types consider war and violence integral parts of human nature,
and reject any notion that peace can be negotiated between two nations. They
even opposed the Oslo peace accords. They don't care much about European
foreign policy. Ledeen spent much of the 1980s attacking Europeans for being
"insufficiently anti-Soviet". The neocon position reflects in a reactionary
petty-bourgeois way not only that America has the "natural right" to subvert
and overthrow foreign governments and subvert or destroy the national
sovereignity of other countries, but also that this is always a good thing
too. And behind that idea, is the chauvinist idea that the whole world
should be more like America, because America IS human nature, and only
American organisational methods can work effectively.

Pentagon officials maintain contacts with many oppositionists, including
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah of Iran. Assistant Secretary of
Defense Peter W. Rodman met with Hossein Khomeini, Ayatollah Khomeini's
grandson who has broken with  the ruling clerics, in September 2001. They
have their finger in all sorts of pies. All sorts of groups and alliances
seeking democratisation in Iran also exist in the USA and Europe, because of
course there are lots of exiles The aim here is to encourage foreign
subversion of the Iranian government, through a whole variety of means, with
the objective of gradually breaking up the political power of the Islamic
clergy in Iran. Officially it's all about "democracy" and "arms control".
But behind it, is simply American geostrategic interests - maintaining
military dominance and access to strategic resources necessary for the
American lifestyle. The irony is that the dissidents and exiles ultimately
became so, as a direct result of the previous American interventions.

The American subversion of Iranian politics is a pretty crazy policy, which
begets the exact opposite of what it aims to do. But the Americans learn
nothing from real history. American historians are mainly interested in
using history to justify current policy. The neocons try to purge anybody
thinking critically through the facts. It's a bit like the growth of
Stalinism during the 1920s in the USSR. The disasters of philosophical
pragmatism are thus written in pools of blood, and then after attacking the
"mullahcracy" the Americans go to their own church on Sunday, to pray to
their own God to guide them. In my opinion, they would get much better
guidance, if they engaged in a serious, scientific historical and political
analysis which was honest, accurate, objective with respect to the facts,
and comprehensive. You don't do that with a Homeland Security apparatus, or
a pack of religious lies. You do it, by getting people to think.


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