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America’s Confusion in Dealing With Iran

April 22, 2010

How Bad Advice Makes For Bad Policy

I know our blog has been quiet for a while.  Detailed research takes time.  There is much to understand, because our actions going forward will have compelling consequences.  This brief commentary will be followed by a detailed brief of factual information as to what this so-called “Islamic Republic of Iran” is all about.

Friends, we need to understand who these people really are and what their agenda actually is if we are to be able to deal with them successfully.

If we do not understand, then we will fall victim to our own stupidity.  For example, we might even publish headlines claiming that U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates’ recent memo to the White House says that the, “U.S. lacks a policy to Thwart Iran.”

As we debate each other whether we should bomb, sanction, nuke, or do something else aggressive to Iran, this debate provides Iran’s ruling junta the tools they need to repress the very people inside Iran that can frame a future for Iran in which it could become a responsible member of the world community.  That is, those who are secular (not “Secular Islamist,” or Jumbo Shrimp, or any other oxymoron) and want real democracy.  Their ranks have grown, but there certainly are none to be found among the Mullahs (with turbans), the Revolutionary Guard, the “Reformists” or “Green Movement” crowd (Mullahs with suits–no turbans–who pursue the path of Shariati), etc.  Those people are all “Twelvers Shi’a Islamists,” period!

Reza Khojasteh-RahimiJune 2008 interview of Soroush: “We should Pursue Shariati’s Path

They are jockeying for the leadership of their Twelvers Shi’a Islamist in pursue of their own Twelvers Shi’s doctrine, accusing each other of corruption, and arguing about who is most morally and intellectually “qualified” to lead the masses to serve their own agenda.  The more western politicians bluster towards the regime in Iran or imply that they might attack it, the more the regime cracks down on those who are the very ones we should be trying to help, not get them tried for treason.

Even former President George W. Bush expressed frustration, “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe.”

November 6, 2003, during the 20th anniversary of NED (National Endowment for Democracy)

No shit, Sherlock?!  So why all the confusion among US’ Iran policymakers during that time?  They still don’t know how to deal with Iran, or even to whom to talk.  Do we keep trying to deal with one faction then another of the Twelvers Shi’a Islamist ideologues or do we stop the film loop and deal with someone else—e.g. the younger generation that wants a secular Iran. By that I mean western style secularism and not some concocted “Islamic secularism.”

What is a President like Bush supposed to do when one of his so-called “experts” (the co-director of the Iranian Democracy Project at the Hoover Institute) comes up with some lunacy like, “The Mousavi Mission: Iran finds its Nelson Mandela.” Abbas Milani Feb. 17, 2010.

What are these guys smoking?  Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison and unlike Mousavi,  he was never an official member an apartheid terrorist regime. We certainly can’t say the same for Mr. Mousavi, who was Iran’s Prime Minister when thousands of Iranians were executed in Iran, when Iran bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut April 18, 1983, or when they tried bombing the LA Coliseum during the Grand Opening of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, July 28, 1984.  What is Milani Talking about???

Or better yet, how serious is this guy who dedicates five pages of his political memoir to describing his “mounting anxiety” over his circumeision?!  I am not making this stuff up.  Go read it for yourself:

Tale of the Two Cities: a Persian Memoir; pp. 80-85; 1996-2000

On a more serious note, the journey of one American who was involved in Iranian “politics” is more interesting.  I met University of Pittsburg Political Science Professor Richard Cottam on April 7, 1995.  The “former” CIA operative had participated in the 1953 CIA coup (and several others after that).  He had known Mosaddeq so well that long after the coup to unseat him Cottam began to have a change of heart.  As he told me he “wanted to reverse what [the US] had done in 1953”

Author’s interview with Cottam in April 1995.

“I didn’t want to see a revolution in Iran, but I didn’t want to play any role in stopping one, for sure.  And I just wanted the State Department to understand what these people were about. They [the Americans] did not know.” Cottam explained.  He went on, “for example, Gary Sick (then a national security adviser in the Carter administration) did not know the name of [Mehdi] Bazargan.”  Bazargan was Khomeini’s hand picked Interim Prime Minister on February 11, 1979, right after the revolution and ten-days after Khomeini’s triumphal return to Iran.

In a 1979 Washington Post article, Goodbye to America’s Shah, Cottam wrote:

Americans must recognize two facts governing the situation in Iran. One is the breadth of support for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini among politically sophisticated intellectuals as well as millions of urban and rural Iranians who never before participated in the political process. The other is the complete absence among these same people of loyalty for the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who is regarded as a traitor, a creation of American and British imperialism.

Cottam went on to say:

“by 1979 Khomeini’s popularity [was] pervasive, and the movement reflect[ed] a widely shared Islamic, humanist ideology.

And the editors remarked,

As this issue goes to press, supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini have reached the goal for which they long filed Iran streets: throwing out the Pahlavi dynasty and establishing an Islamic republic.

Of course, no mention of Cottam’s own role in the 1953 coup.  Just that he had worked as a “political officer” at the American embassy in Tehran 1956-1958, and had encouraged General Valliollah Qarani with his coup plan against the Shah.

Cottam told me during my April 7, 1995 interview with him in Ohio at the CIRA conference,

I was the person who took [Sam Pope] Brewer around, and I did that because I wanted an article that would put pressure on the shah published in the New York Times, and they were willing to do that.  See, I wanted to reverse what we had done, and to do it by forcing the shah to liberalize.  And I was just one little person, and I resigned shortly after that because I had no hope of success.

He claimed he knew all about Qarani’s 1958 coup against the Shah, but somehow had no knowledge of Qarani’s 1963 coup, which heavily involved his pal, Khomeini–noted in my previous article.  He actually denied it with a straight face and a statement he had made against Dr. Mosaddeq, which I had quoted him during my presentation at the conference we were both attending.  Of course, when I presented him with an audio tape of his statement before witnesses, he acknowledged that did in fact say that, but claimed he meant, “he never wrote about it!

Throughout 1975-1979, Cottam was in contact with most of Khomeini’s close inner circle, especially his US representative, Dr. Ibrahim Yazdi (who later became Khomeini’s foreign Minister and is now one of “Reformist” leaders).  Cottam apparently visited Khomeini in Najaf, Iraq in early August 1978.  This was about one week before the Cinema Rex Theater in Abadan was set ablaze by Khomeini’s radical Islamists, burning to death 435 innocent Iranians inside—exactly on 25th anniversary of the 1953 coup.  Cottam met Khomeini again on December 28, 1978 in Paris, France, and was in Iran for the Shah’s departure on January 16, 1979—lots of frequent flyer miles there.

Okay, first Cottam helps get rid of Mossadeq and democracy in Iran in favor of a dictator.  Later he helps get rid of the Shah in favor of people about whom he said the State Dept. knew nothing (but should have).  Does that mean that Cottam knew who these Twelvers Shi’a Islamists really were, and helped them anyway?  Or did he blithely imagine them to have some Islamic, humanist ideology—whatever the hell that is.  No wonder Bush was perplexed.  With such a convoluted view of the regime, no “plan,” however clever, is going to work.

Next we are going to talk more about the nature, substance and agenda of the Twelvers Shi’a Islamists.  Try to bring the picture into sharper focus.  Warning:  the picture is probably going to look very different from that which you have had in your mind up until now.  So please approach the subject in discovery mode.


Fara Mansoor

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