Abusing Iran prior to and after WW II
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor
May 14, 2008, 00:22
In the din of
anti-Iranian agit-prop, with the neocons waving their swords at Iran, oh icon
of evil, I remember that oil-smudged page of history, the invasion of Iran by
Great Britain and the Soviet Union, following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet
Of course, the
invasion of Iran from August 25 to September 17, 1941, was for one reason only,
to lock up Iranian oil fields and insure supply lines to the Soviets as they
battled Germany on the Eastern Front. By today�s standards, that seems like a
Yet it�s another one
of those easy to overlook violations of Iran, which was a neutral nation, even
though Reza Shah Pahlavi had moved closer to Germany. Part of that resistance
was that the British had already sunk their teeth in Iranian oil via the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which owned the Abadan Oil Refinery, conceivably a
trophy for the oil-thirsty Germans. The refinery in fact knocked out 8 million
tons of oil in 1940 and could make or break the Allied effort. Obviously, the
Soviets shared the strategic lust for Iran�s oil, as well.
As it was, the German
Army was cutting through the Soviet Union and the Allies were searching for a
way to get sorely needed American Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviets. Both
Allies leaned on the Shah and Iran, which only aggravated the situation,
causing pro-German rallies in Tehran. Perhaps as further payback to the Brits,
the Reza Shah would not kick out the abundance of German nationals living in
Iran, while nixing use of the railway to the Allies. And so, this triggered the
Allied invasion of Iran, less than five months before Pearl Harbor.
The British force
rose up from the south and the Soviets descended from the north to make short
order of the nine Iranian infantry divisions. Despite Reza Shah�s appeal to FDR
to invoke the Atlantic Charter on behalf of his �pacific country,� Roosevelt
reminded him of the obvious disaster to the world that Hitler�s brutal march for
world domination presented. Roosevelt also assured the Shah that the British
and Soviet governments had no designs on Iran�s independence or territorial
integrity, which would turn out to be a half-truth.
The Soviets would go on
later to back separatist states to the north. Still later, the US and UK would
support the overthrow of the popular and democratically elected Iranian Prime
Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, with the help of Kermit Roosevelt, the
FDR's nephew, and the CIA. Flashing back to 1941, Brit forces pulled out of
Tehran on October 17, after the Germans had been flushed out. Yet Iran was for
all purposes split between Britain and the Soviet Union for the balance of the
The creation of the
Through this new
supply lifeline, deemed the Persian Corridor, open to the Soviet Union, some 5
million tons of war goods flowed. The British in the Middle East received their
share of the booty as well. Forced to abdicate and exiled to South Africa, Reza
Shah Pahlavi was replaced on the throne by his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
The new Shah signed the tri-partite treaty of alliance with Britain and the
Soviet Union in January 1942. It provided for nonmilitary assistance from Iran
to the Allied war effort and stated that the Allies would leave Iran �not more
than six months after the cessation of hostilities.�
In response, Iran
went one step further and declared war on Germany in September 1943, qualifying
for membership in the United Nations, a valuable quid pro quid for the new
Shah. At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, FDR, Prime Minister Winston
Churchill and bad old General Secretary Joe Stalin reaffirmed their commitment
to Iran�s independence and territorial integrity and even extended economic
help to Iran. After all, the young Shah had saved their derrieres with his mega
Yet at the end of the
war, as Britain pulled out, the Soviet troops in northwestern Iran refused to
go and backed revolts for short-lived, pro-Soviet separatist regimes in the
northern provinces of Iranian Azerbaijan, the People�s Republic of Azerbaijan
and the Kurdish People�s Republic in late 1945. Both were patently Soviet
puppet states. Soviet troops did not get out of Iran completely until May 1946,
and only after receiving a promise of oil concessions. After they were gone,
the Soviet republics in the north were overthrown by Iranian fighters and the
oil concessions were revoked. And Iran was left with a bitter taste its mouth
for the Allies.
This was exacerbated,
again, in 1953 by the overthrow of the duly elected Mohammed Mossadegh, who was
thrown in jail for the rest of his life. This as the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
and his aristocratic band of thieves were brought back to shore up the lion�s
share of its wealth. This left the lion�s share of the populous land-poor and
impoverished. This led eventually to the Iranian Revolution in December 1979
and the deposing of the Shah, with the subsequent return of the Ayatollah
Khomeini from exile in France.
From hostage crisis to
Three decades of Iran
being bandied about by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States finally
exploded in our faces in the form of the Iran hostage crisis, in which 53 U.S.
diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, from November 4, 1979 to January 20.
1981, after a group of students took over the American embassy in support of
The crisis reached a climax when the US military attempted a disastrous
rescue operation, Operation Eagle Claw, on April 24, 1980, resulting in an aborted
mission and the deaths of eight American military men. The crisis ended with
the signing of the Algiers Accords in Algeria on January 19. 1981. The hostages
were formally released into United States custody the following day, just minutes after the new American
president, Ronald Reagan, was sworn in.
In America, the unresolved hostage crisis was really the basis for
President Jimmy Carter�s defeat in the November 1980 presidential election. The
crisis� lack of resolution was brought about by presidential candidate Ronald
Reagan and his vice presidential running mate, ex-CIA chief George H.W. Bush,
who were conducting treasonous negotiations behind Carter�s back for release of
the hostages soon after the election, offering them more money, weapons and
spare parts than Carter had put on the table.
Of course, these monies and munitions we would later find out were obtained
through the scandalous Iran-Contra affair. That is, the funding had been
produced via an exchange of arms to the Nicaraguan (Counter-Revolutionary)
Contras in exchange for drugs and cash, not quite a cricket way to win an
election or resolve an international crisis.
The black operation was discovered only after an airlift of guns was downed
over Nicaragua on October 5. 1986. The Iranian government confirmed an Iranian
newspaper story with all the embarrassing details. Ten days after the story was
first published, President Ronald Reagan appeared on national television from
the Oval Office. In his speech on November 13, Reagan confirmed the
transactions and stated the hard-to-swallow reasons for them.
"My purpose was . . . to send a signal that the United States was
prepared to replace the animosity between [the U.S. and Iran] with a new
relationship . . . At the same time we undertook this initiative, we made clear
that Iran must oppose all forms of international terrorism as a condition of
progress in our relationship. The most significant step which Iran could take,
we indicated, would be to use its influence in Lebanon to secure the release of
all hostages held there," Reagan said.
Salt was poured into the wounds of the scandal when Oliver North, who rode
herd on the Contra op, destroyed or hid pertinent documents between November 21
and November 25, 1986, revealing their activities. During North's trial in
1989, his secretary, Fawn Hall, testified extensively about helping her boss to
alter, shred, and remove official United States National Security Council (NSC)
documents from the White House.
According to the New York Times, enough documents were put into a
government shredder to choke it. North's thin explanation for
destroying the documents was to protect the lives of individuals involved in
Iran and Contra operations. North claimed that he gathered documents to prove
that he had sufficient authority for his actions. What authority provided him
the authority to usurp one nation�s revolution to support another nation�s,
except the Republican imperative to win the election?
In fact, North took more than a dozen notebooks containing 2,617 pages of
names, phone conversations, meetings, lists of action items, and details on
operations, including highly classified information. It wasn't until years
after the trial that North's notebooks were made public, and only after the
National Security Archive and Public Citizen sued the Office of the Independent
Council under the Freedom of Information Act.
The cherry on the cake: the Iran-Iraq War
And to top it all off, our sometimes friend Saddam Hussein, after his long
run in the early 1970s heading up Iraq's nationalization of the Western-owned
Iraq Petroleum Company (which held a monopoly on the country's oil), became
president in 1979. By 1980, with some encouragement from the Carter
administration, Hussein exploited age-old hostilities between the two nations
and declared war on Iran. After some initial setbacks, Iran fought back and
gained control over the war, albeit with the US, Soviets,
and Europeans lending aid to both sides. The war went on for eight bloody
years, yielding one million Iraqi deaths and even more Iranian deaths. They
couldn�t have done it without a little help from their friends, including the
Now, given this backstory, is it any wonder that Iran is suspicious of the
West and particularly the United States? As we rant about their nuclear energy
projects, even if they include arms development, tiny Israel has become one of
the world�s largest nuclear powers, building its arsenal since its inception in
1948. And we worked as hard as Israel to keep it a secret.
Thus Iran has wakened one more time to defend itself, rejecting
nuclear inspections unless Israel allows them. Read the AP story of May 5,
2008 for details.
So once again, interference in other nations� business, subterfuge, CIA
meddling and blowback, have steered us gradually into havoc. The question is
when will we learn to play it straight, Sam, with Iran and everyone else? Or is
that not in the political playbook?
Jerry Mazza is a free-lance writer living in New
York. Reach him at email@example.com.
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