หน้าหลัก The Plot to Attack Iran: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Iran

The Plot to Attack Iran: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Iran

The world has a lot of questions about the current state of affairs between the United States and Iran…

  • How has the US undermined democracy in Iran?
  • Is Iran really trying to develop nuclear weapons?
  • How has US waged a terror campaign against Iran for years?
  • How is it that the US and Israel, rather than Iran, are destabilizing the Middle East?
  • How has Iran helped the US in the war on terror?

    In The Plot to Attack Iran, critically acclaimed author Dan Kovalik exposes what Americans have known about the Islamic Republic is largely based on propaganda. The 1953 coup that deposed the democratically-elected prime minister for a US-selected shah? Sold to average American citizens as a necessity to protect democracy and guard against communism. In truth, it was America’s lust for Iranian oil and power that installed the tyrannical shah. The Iranian hostage crisis that miraculously ended with Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as president? Evidence shows that Reagan negotiated with the hostage-takers to hold the hostages until his inauguration.

    Iran, once known as Persia, is one of the oldest nations on earth. It has a rich history and a unique culture, and is bordered by seven countries, the Caspian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. It is literally the intersection of many countries and many worlds. It has a population of eighty million people and occupies a space nearly the size of Alaska, the largest US state; it is the seventeenth largest country in the world. Over the past century, Iran’s greatest resource, and at the same time its greatest curse, has been its oil. For it is oil that has caused the United States and other world powers to systematically attempt to destroy Iran. After a greedy Iranian monarch sold all of Iran’s oil and natural gas reserves to a British financier in 1901, the West started just one of its many invasions and exploitations of the country.

    Using recently declassified documents and memos, as well as first-hand experience of the country, critically-acclaimed author Dan Kovalik will change the way you think about Iran, and especially what you think of US interference there. Learn how the United States vilifies its enemies, and accuses them of unspeakable horror to mask its own terrible crimes. Not only does the illuminating and important The Plot to Attack Iran delve into the current incendiary situation, but it also predicts what could happen next, and what needs to be done before it is too late.
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    Copyright © 2018 by Dan Kovalik
    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.
    Skyhorse Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or info@skyhorsepublishing.com.
    Skyhorse® and Skyhorse Publishing® are registered trademarks of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.
    Visit our website at www.skyhorsepublishing.com.
    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.
    Cover design by Michael Short
    Print ISBN: 978-1-5107-3934-5
    Ebook ISBN: 978-1-5107-3935-2
    Printed in the United States of America
    Dedicated to the people of Iran, with love and solidarity.
    Human beings are all members of one body.
    They are created from the same essence.
    When one member is in pain,
    The others cannot rest.
    If you do not care about the pain of others,
    You are not worthy of being called a human.
    —Sa’di, Thirteenth Century Persian Poet.
    (Quote inscribed over entrance of United Nations building in NYC)*
    *Phil Wilyato, In Defense of Iran.
    1 Target: Iran
    2 The West’s Not-So-Creative Destruction of the Middle East
    3 The United States and United Kingdom Destroy Iranian Democracy
    4 Installing a King in the Name of Democracy
    5 The CIA and the SAVAK
    6 Jimmy Carter and the Human Rights Double Standard
    7 The Shah’s Reign Begins to Crumble
    8 US Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Ayatollah
    9 A Tale of Two Revolutions—Iran and Nicaragua
    10 T; he Iran-Iraq War—Playing Both Sides Against Each Other
    11 The United States, Iran, and the Taliban
    12 The United States, Saudi Arabia, and the War on Yemen
    13 Avoiding a War with Iran
    If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
    —Malcolm X
    I VISITED IRAN FOR THE FIRST time in July of 2017. Indeed, quite ironically, I was in Iran for the Fourth of July. And, while there were no fireworks on that day to commemorate US Independence Day, I assure the reader that I felt absolutely no antipathy from the Iranian people, despite my being a citizen of the nation which has been referred to by some Iranians as the Great Satan. Rather, as I’m sure nearly every American tourist in Iran can tell you, the Iranians have a special affection for Americans, and when strangers on the street found out I was from the United States, they would invariably smile, welcome me to their country, show off their English if they were able to speak it, and enthusiastically pose for a photo-op.
    Like most people in the world, the people of Iran quite readily, and maturely, distinguish individual Americans from their government—a government which many Iranians do have a problem with, and for very good reason.
    Iran is actually a quite modern country with many Western influences. Many people I met spoke some English, some quite fluently, and most signs were in both Farsi and English. And, while nearly every woman wore some type of head covering—a legal requirement in Iran, though enforcement of the requirement has been relaxed by the police in Tehran as of late—very few wear a burka which covers their face.
    Instead, most women (some of the most beautiful I have seen anywhere) wear light, colorful silk scarves around their heads, while wearing very modern clothes otherwise, including, for example, blue jeans and high heels. Actually, I found it quite amusing that nearly no women wore head coverings at all on the flight from Frankfurt, Germany, but when the pilot announced our initial descent into Tehran, nearly all the women put on their scarves in unison.
    I think it is quite fair to say that women indeed fare better in Iran than in nearly any other country in the Middle East, and in many ways better than before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Thus, literacy for women is now over 80 percent while it was around 25 percent in 1970; 90 percent of women are enrolled in school, which is free for all even through university; while about one-third of university students were women before 1979, now women make up a strong majority (65 to 70 percent) of university students; and women participate in every field of economic and social life, including sports, film, police, medicine, science, business, and entertainment.¹
    Women actually do better in Iran than in the United States in a few key ways—for example, they are legally entitled to ninety days maternity leave at two-thirds pay,² whereas in the United States they have no entitlement to maternity leave at all. Iran has an equal pay for equal work requirement,³ a measure which the United States does not have and indeed has opposed vigorously, most notably by refusing to ratify international human rights instruments which require this, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It must be noted that the United States and Iran share the distinction of being among the few countries which are not parties to CEDAW, the others being Palau, The Holy See, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga.
    Iranian women have an entitlement to employer-provided child care centers whereas, again, they have no such right in the United States.⁴
    Some other fun facts are that Iran is one of the only countries in the world that requires couples to take a class on modern contraception before being issued a marriage license. Iran also has the only state-sponsored condom factory in the Middle East—the Keyhan Bod plant—which produces seventy million condoms a year in various colors and flavors.⁵ In addition, there are more sex change operations in Iran than any country in the world besides Thailand.⁶ Since 2005, when the much-maligned Ahmadinejad was president, the government has been providing grants of up to $4,500 for the operation, plus further funding for hormone therapy.⁷
    Meanwhile, the one big downside for me, a guy who enjoys a glass or two of red wine in the evening, is that alcohol is illegal in Iran. And so, while the airport and hotel we stayed at (the former Tehran Hyatt) had bars, they did not serve alcohol; only juice, coffee, and tea.
    In addition, the airport, hotel, and nearly every building we visited were adorned with giant framed photos of both the infamous Ayatollah Khomeini, who I was taught to hate and fear as a child, and the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who certainly has a softer, kinder look than his predecessor. I desperately wanted to take a selfie in front of these pictures, but, for fear of offending someone, I never did.
    I have read that, notwithstanding Iran’s dry law, many Iranians have a private stock of liquor, and that Iranians indeed compete very well with other nations, Russia included, for alcohol consumption. I sat next to a German petro-engineer on the plane to Tehran. He told me that he often comes to Iran for work, and that he has gotten to know some Iranians very well. He explained how he was at an Iranian family’s home one evening for dinner, and they asked him how he liked their food. He responded, “It is wonderful, but I am from Germany; it would go down much better with a glass of beer.” And then, from seemingly out of nowhere, bottles of Heineken and other spirits appeared on the table. Apparently, this is a typical happening, but not knowing anyone very well in Iran, I did not have such an experience.
    Even stone cold sober, however, I loved Iran. The people are friendly and famously hospitable. Indeed, I was almost embarrassed by the hospitality. My hosts, from the University of Tehran which had invited several of us from the States to speak there, were constantly making sure that we had enough to eat and drink, and that we always had a place to rest, even in the middle of the day. The Iranians that accompanied us would often disappear themselves in the early afternoon, and we later learned that they were going to the nearest prayer room—not to pray, however, but to sleep on the floor.
    Iranians would consider it an act of barbarity to make us take a cab to or from the airport, as opposed to being personally driven. In contrast, I can’t remember the last time someone personally took me or picked me up at the airport back home in Pittsburgh.
    At the mosques, moreover, it was quite common for people to give visitors, such as myself, offerings of food, such as homemade candies. At the first mosque we visited in Tehran—the Imamzadeh-Saleh Mosque—our guide pointed out the burial places of four of the nuclear scientists assassinated by Israel, quite possibly with the help of the terrorist group known as the MEK. These scientists are considered martyrs, a very big honor in the Shia religious tradition.
    Of course, there are many dazzling and breathtaking antiquities to gaze at in Iran. I was very fortunate because the University of Tehran generously offered to fly a couple of us to the ancient city of Esfahan (also spelled “Isfahan”) which is a one-hour flight south of Tehran.
    In Esfahan, we spent a day walking through the Imam Square (also known as Meidan Emam or Naghsh-e Jahan), truly a sight to behold. Imam Square is one of over twenty UNESCO-designated world heritage sites in Iran. This is UNESCO’s description of the Square:
    The Meidan Emam is a public urban square in the centre of Esfahan, a city located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing central Iran. It is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Built by the Safavid shah Abbas I in the early 17th century, the square is bordered by two-storey arcades and anchored on each side by four magnificent buildings: to the east, the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque; to the west, the pavilion of Ali Qapu; to the north, the portico of Qeyssariyeh; and to the south, the celebrated Royal Mosque. A homogenous urban ensemble built according to a unique, coherent, and harmonious plan, the Meidan Emam was the heart of the Safavid capital and is an exceptional urban realization.
    Also known as Naghsh-e Jahan (“Image of the World”), and formerly as Meidan-e Shah, Meidan Emam is not typical of urban ensembles in Iran, where cities are usually tightly laid out without sizeable open spaces. Esfahan’s public square, by contrast, is immense: 560 m long by 160 m wide, it covers almost 9 ha [i.e., 24.3 acres]. All of the architectural elements that delineate the square, including its arcades of shops, are aesthetically remarkable, adorned with a profusion of enameled ceramic tiles and paintings.⁸
    Sadly, as UNESCO laments, the Imam Square is being threatened by the most relentless of forces—time—and Iran’s inability to keep up maintenance of the ancient structures. The Western sanctions against Iran only curtail Iran’s ability to maintain such treasures. However, I did notice while in Esfahan that at least some of the buildings were covered with scaffolding and under repair.
    As I witnessed, this Square is teeming with activity, with people picnicking, playing music, shopping, or sitting to enjoy some ice cream on what is almost invariably a hot, sunny day. I myself spent the day in the Square taking numerous photos, particularly of the people there, and they seemed excited about how much I appreciated them and their country.
    When one is in Esfahan, one must visit the amazing bazaars which help to form Imam Square, and we of course did just that. While I was at one of the bazaars, I was invited to drink espresso in a Persian carpet dealer’s store while the ring I was buying as a souvenir (a silver ring with a black opal and with the word “Ali” in Farsi carved beautifully into both sides) was being fitted for me by the vendor’s son.
    The vendor, known as a bazaari, immediately started taking out rugs, unrolling them, and telling us of the history of each one. Some of the rugs, though they looked brand new, were a hundred years old or more. The craftsmanship put into these, probably the most famous type of rug in the world, is awe-inspiring. In the end, the bazaari’s hospitality paid off, as my American companion bought a rug from him, and I purchased an incredible backpack which looked like it was made from a Persian rug.
    This bazaari, I must note, was the only one I met in Iran who could process a credit card. Somehow, he managed to have cards processed through Dubai. Because of the Western sanctions against Iran, US credit and ATM cards do not otherwise work in Iran, making a tourist trip to that country quite challenging for an American.
    Another interesting consequence of the Western isolation of Iran is that international copyright and trademark laws are not honored there. And so, for example, there were a number of knock-off businesses which passed themselves off as American chains, such as Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken, though they usually were named just slightly differently. The KFC I saw, complete with a picture of Colonel Sanders, was named ZFC, though no one could tell me what the “Z” stands for.
    While in Esfahan, we also visited the famous Monar Jonban, literally, “Shaking Minarets,” a monument built in the 1300s to cover the grave of Amu Abdollah Soqla, a Muslim hermit. The monument’s two tall minarets are spring-loaded and built to shake so that they can withstand an earthquake. Several times a day, the minarets are shaken manually to the sound of music as bystanders look on and applaud.
    Iran, and Esfahan in particular, while known primarily for their spectacular Islamic architecture, also have amazing architecture from other religions and cultures. For example, there are a number of beautiful Armenian Christian churches—one that I visited in Esfahan is still a functioning place of worship and has an exhibit memorializing the Armenian genocide. I was also able to visit the ancient Zoroastrian Fire Temple, Atashgah, which looks like a giant sand castle on a hill.
    And, one might be surprised to hear that I also visited a functioning synagogue in Esfahan (once called “Dar-Al-Yahud,” or, “House of the Jews”). I went looking for the synagogue after seeing a shopkeeper in a bazaar wearing a yarmulke. Iran is actually home to twenty-five thousand Jews—the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel. And, in addition to synagogues, Esfahan is also home to a two-thousand-year-old Jewish cemetery as well as Jewish mausoleums.
    Iranians are indeed proud of the fact that the famous Persian Emperor in Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, upon conquering Babylon, “freed the Jews who had been held there in slavery, returned them to Jerusalem and gave them resources to rebuild their temple.”⁹
    The director of Tehran’s Jewish Committee, Siamak Morsadegh, recently gave an interview in which he described the experience of Jews in modern Iran, and dispelled a number of myths about Iran in the process:¹⁰
    It’s a lot better than many people think. Jews are a recognized minority here, so we can practice our religion freely. We have more than 20 working synagogues in Tehran and at least five kosher butcheries. In some European countries that is not allowed because of animal rights. In Iran, it is.
    Generally speaking, the Jews’ condition in Iran has always been better than in Europe. In our country’s history, there was never a time when all Iranians had the same religion, race or language, so there is a high degree of tolerance. Jews and Muslims respect each other, but at the same time, we know there are differences.
    The hospital I work in is a Jewish hospital, for example, but more than 95 percent of both our personnel and patients is Muslim. It’s strictly forbidden to ask about religion there because the most important verse of Torah, which is written on top of the hospital, says: “Treat other people like yourself.” It does not say “other Jews,” it says “other people.” It shows that we have a practical relationship with each other and cooperate to make the world a better place.
    But I am Iranian—I pray in Hebrew and I can speak in English, but I can only think in Persian. In my opinion there is a big difference between nationality and religion; they are not in opposition to each other. Going abroad—and especially going to Israel—is not an option for me, because I think the idea that Jews have to live in one special place in the world is rooted in the idea that we are different from other people. But I think we are equal.
    In the same interview, Siamak Morsadegh addressed head-on some of the inflammatory statements made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about the Holocaust and Israel:
    We did not agree with President Ahmadinejad, and we told him so. He did not directly deny the Holocaust, he questioned it—but I do not even accept questioning it. It doesn’t make sense to question things that are completely clear and accepted all around the world.
    But that did not disturb our day-to-day life. The financial help for our Jewish hospital by the government, for example, started during Ahmadinejad’s presidency. He was anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic. Iran’s general policy is not changed by its presidents anyway. The main policymaker is Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], and the main framework is the constitution.
    These are not mere idle words, either, for the proof is in the pudding. As journalist Jonathan Cook explains, the relative success of Jews in Iran “and their repeated refusal to leave, despite financial incentives offered by Israel and American Jewish groups for them to emigrate, have proved an enduring embarrassment to those claiming that the Iranian regime is driven by genocidal anti-Semitism.”¹¹
    In truth, Iran is proud of the pluralistic nature of its society and its tolerance of many faiths. Indeed, as the United States has itself recognized for a long time, as evidenced in a December 27, 1978, Confidential Country Team Report drafted by the US Embassy in Tehran: “The Shi’a sect of Islam predominates in Iran but the country has had a long history of religious toleration which has allowed such religious minorities as Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and members of the Baha’i sect to practice their beliefs openly and to participate fully in public life.”¹²
    One might be surprised to learn that, to this very day, the biggest holiday in Iran is not in fact Islamic but is indeed the three-thousand-year-old Zoroastrian New Year’s Day celebration known as Nowruz (New Day).¹³ Iran as a nation existed, in fact, for over two millennia before Islam ever came into being.¹⁴ And, Iran’s language, Farsi, is more like French and Swedish than Arabic, the Iranian people being distinctly and proudly non-Arabs.¹⁵
    I often thought to myself during my stay in Iran that, despite Iran being invaded multiple times over its long history, including by the Mongols who actually left much of the architecture intact, the ancient buildings I gazed at were still there because the United States had yet to invade it. The other countries in the region that have been “graced” by the US military in recent years, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, now lay in ruins, possibly never to be rebuilt again.
    As one example, just this morning, I heard an NPR story about Mosul, Iraq, where the United States finished a very brutal operation over seven months ago. They interviewed an Iraqi who complained that he still cannot return to his home because it still contains the bones of the ISIS fighters killed in the battle, that the roads have yet to be cleared, and the 150,000 homes or so destroyed in the battle have yet to be rebuilt.¹⁶
    NPR quoted former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who just shrugged it off by saying that the United States—which had opened up Pandora’s Box in Iraq to begin with by its 2003 invasion—does not engage in nation-building anymore (if it ever really did), and that the Gulf countries should help with the rebuilding.¹⁷ Commenting on this, Jeffrey St. Claire of CounterPunch quipped, “So much for the Pottery Barn Rule. It’s back to the Tacitus Rule: ‘We made wasteland and called it peace.’ ”¹⁸
    Meanwhile, many Iranians mistook me for being Persian before I opened my mouth and spoke English, and they seemed overjoyed to meet an American who looked like them. My new friend Ali (it seemed to me that nearly every man in Iran is named either Ali or Mohammad), a young man who served as our interpreter, was quite amused by this. Ali is both a die-hard supporter of the Islamic Republic as well as one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. He turned to me once, cupping my face in his hands, and said, “You have such a kind face; you look like the men who volunteered to fight against Saddam Hussein.”
    Ali was referring, of course, to the brutal war between Iran and Iraq in which thousands of Iranian volunteers (the Baseeji, or Popular Mobilization Army) went to the front lines to supplement the fledging revolutionary military and to confront the Iraqi invaders with “human wave” attacks.¹⁹ These “human wave” attacks were quite successful until Iraq came up with the brilliant plan to counter them with chemical weapons, of course bought from Germany and the United States.
    Saddam Hussein preemptively launched this war, with great encouragement from the United States and the rest of the West, to try to overturn the Islamic government which had just come to power and to annex land from Iran given up in the 1975 Algiers Agreement. The war, known then as the Gulf War until the United States appropriated that name for its 1991 invasion of Iraq,²⁰ lasted from 1980 to 1988, with the United States at times, and quite cynically, supporting both sides of the armed conflict.
    On the first evening of our visit to Esfahan, Ali accompanied us across one of the eleven spectacular stone bridges that, at that moment, crossed the completely dry Zayandeh River. Five of the eleven bridges, including the one we crossed, are over four hundred years old. When there is a big rain, the bank then fills up with the Zayandeh. Sadly, Iran these days is frequently battling drought, so we never witnessed this. However, we did hear the frogs, at least a reminder of the river, croaking at the moonlight.
    These bridges are truly a sight to behold. The one we crossed is called the Si-o-Seh Bridge, built in 1602, and is known as the “Bridge of 33 Arches.” These arches are lit up yellowish orange at night. The glow from the arches is quite magical. People of all ages, including babies being pushed in strollers, traverse these bridges into the wee hours. As Ali noted, “It is safe here. Even women can go out alone at night without worry.”
    Ali was so proud to show me his country, including the Revolutionary Guard who manned the security at the airport. A devotee of American cinema, Ali said, as we approached security, “You will see the Revolutionary Guard with their green uniforms and thick beards just as the ones depicted in the movie Argo” (the film about the American hostage-taking which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards), “but you will see that they are very nice.”
    I asked Ali how he liked the movie Argo, which obviously depicts the Americans as the good guys. He said, with a smile on his face, “I hated it, of course; I am Iranian.”
    * * *
    While at age eleven I was not aware of the February 1979 Islamic Revolution which overthrew the Shah of Iran, I was quite aware, as anyone my age and older, of the taking of the American hostages in the US Embassy in Tehran which followed soon thereafter and which lasted for 444 days. I remember the rage we as Americans collectively felt as we saw the tally of the days these hostages were held tick upwards every evening on the nightly news. And, our rage was focused on the personification of the revolutionary government of Iran at that time—the Ayatollah Khomeini—who was also portrayed as the personification of evil itself.
    I also recall vividly the failed attempt by Jimmy Carter to rescue the hostages, and then the joy I felt when the hostages were finally released within mere minutes of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as President. Growing up in a firmly Republican household, I believed that this series of events demonstrated the incompetence and weakness of Carter on the one hand, and the omnipotence of Reagan on the other, as the mere swearing-in of the tough-talking and resolute Reagan appeared to have frightened the Iranians into releasing the hostages.
    The vilification of Khomeini and Iran was, and continues to be, made easy by the omission of many salient facts in the prevailing, and quite one-sided, narrative of the US-Iranian saga. And, the story of the apparent incompetence of Carter versus the apparent superhero quality of Reagan also unravels upon close inspection of facts which are rarely discussed in polite company, if known at all.
    Such things are never taught in high school, and certainly not mine, a Catholic school in Cincinnati whose powerhouse football team (on which I played) was dubbed “The Holy Crusaders,” after the Christian knights sent to invade, conquer, and pillage the Muslim world in the name of Jesus Christ.
    I only became aware of such facts in college, and even then, not in any classroom. Rather, I learned of such things, which I discuss in this book, when my college friends and I began delving into the crimes of the CIA and US imperialism. I then became aware that Iran has been more of the victim of unjust US policies than the other way around, and that the fear and rage some Iranians expressed in the hostage-taking was rooted in very real grievances growing out of the US-backed coup against their democratically-elected prime minister in 1953, the United States’ installing of the murderous Shah (or king) in his stead, and the United States’ support for the Shah and his torture state until the bitter end which only came about in 1979 with the Islamic Revolution.
    And, the twisted nature of the US-Iranian relationship did not end there. Indeed, what none of the US public knew at the time the hostages were being held, and which few even know today, is that Reagan, far from playing the hero in this story, acted the part of a conniving villain. Indeed, Reagan, with the help of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad, went behind Jimmy Carter’s back and derailed his efforts to free the hostages in order to greatly improve his chances of becoming president. And, the seemingly miraculous timing of the freeing of the hostages within five minutes of Reagan’s inauguration turned out to be the product, not of Reagan’s greatness, but of his dirty deal with the hostage-takers to hold the hostages until after he was safely in office. In a very real way, then, Reagan himself became the captor of these hostages in their final months of captivity.
    Reagan would then go on to encourage Saddam Hussein, then the United States’ close friend, to lead Iraq into invading Iran in 1980 in order to try to overturn the Iranian Revolution. This deadly war, which lasted until 1988, resulted in the deaths of around one million people, and included Saddam’s gassing of Iranians, and Kurds as well, with US knowledge and acquiescence. To make matters even worse, Reagan at one point helped arm Iran during the war, even as he was aiding Iraq, in order to obtain needed cash to fund the Nicaraguan Contras—a terrorist group which Congress had stopped funding because of their abysmal human rights record—and in order to weaken both Iran and Iraq as powers in the Middle East.
    Once I learned this tragic history, I lost all of the antipathy I felt towards Iran as a child. Instead, I felt only love and empathy for the people of Iran who I came to understand have suffered much more at our hands than we at theirs. And, watching the United States go from one destructive war to the next, invariably justifying each war on the basis of claims which quickly turned out to be lies, I decided that I could not stand silently by as the United States stumbled into another war with a beautiful country which not only deserves our respect, but which deserves a long-awaited apology for what our nation has done to it and its people.
    We’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.
    —US General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO¹
    THE DRUMS OF WAR ARE BEATING yet again. As they often have for the past thirty-plus years, they are beating in this country for a war with Iran. I have written this book in an attempt to stop such a war—a war which I believe would not only be unjust, illegal, and immoral, but which would be truly devastating for both Iran and the United States, and, indeed, for the entire world.
    By many accounts, the United States, and its close ally Israel, have been preparing for a war with Iran for well over a decade now. As veteran journalists such as Seymour Hersh and Jonathan Cook have documented, the Bush Administration was keen on a military attack against Iran in 2005.² It appears that Bush began concrete preparations for such an attack in 2006. According to Seymour Hersh, by the spring of 2006, the White House had increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups.³
    Plans were even being made for tactical nuclear weapons strikes against various targets in Iran.
    According to such accounts, Israel’s 2006 assault upon Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon was the opening salvo against Iran (Hezbollah being a critical ally of Iran in striking distance of Israel).
    However, the strong resistance which Hezbollah put up against Israel’s four-week assault, combined with the equally strong resistance of the Iraqi people after the 2003 invasion—an invasion which Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld promised would end quickly with a modest military force—necessitated a delay in an attack upon Iran. However, the goal for such an attack has never been removed from the table.
    Indeed, while many viewed President Obama’s 2015 “nuclear deal” with Iran as a move towards peace with that country, there are good arguments for the proposition that this deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) was always a Trojan Horse. And so, when President Trump stated that this deal was the “worst ever,” he was right, though not in the way he meant—in reality, it was the “worst ever” for Iran, and was always intended to be so.
    The general outline of the nuclear deal was that, in return for the lifting of UN sanctions which were ostensibly imposed in response to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, Iran would give up this program. Iran was desperate for the lifting of these sanctions, which severely undermined its economy, and which made further investment in much-needed social programs impossible. For its part, the United States claimed it wanted the deal to end any attempt by Iran to build nuclear weapons, though the United States’ own National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran did not have such intention, and in any case was years away from having nuclear weapons capability.
    At the same time, as learned the hard way by Libya, which had given up its nuclear ambitions to placate the West only to be invaded shortly thereafter, and as proven by North Korea whose nukes brought Trump to the bargaining table, the only way a weaker state can protect itself against the United States is to have a nuclear deterrent. Indeed, as Israel’s leading military historian, Martin Van Creveld, has opined, Iran would be insane if it were not trying to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, according to Creveld:
    Even if the Iranians are working on a bomb, Israel may not be their real concern. Iran is now surrounded by American forces on all sides—in the Central Asian republics to the north, Afghanistan to the east, the Gulf to the south and Iraq to the West … Wherever U.S. forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.⁴
    Iran, not so much crazy, but desperate for the end of sanctions, agreed to give up its nuclear ambitions, even those related to pressing energy concerns.
    The United States, however, was motivated to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions for the precise purpose of leaving Iran vulnerable to attack, just as Creveld explained it would be without a nuclear deterrent. But there was another way in which the nuclear deal would set Iran up for invasion, one which is not so apparent.
    As geopolitical researcher Tony Cartalucci explains, the bad faith of the United States in signing the nuclear deal is evidenced by its actions in engaging in proxy wars against Iran—in Syria, Lebanon, and in Iran itself through terrorist groups—even as it was signing on the dotted line.⁵ Cartalucci writes that, “[a]ccording to years of US policy papers, dismantling Iran’s allies in Syria and Lebanon were crucial prerequisites toward eventually undermining and overthrowing the government and political order in Iran itself.”
    But there is even further proof of the United States’ duplicity beyond this—the words of a key policy paper written years before the United States entered into the nuclear deal. As Cartalucci relates,
    Beyond US policymakers openly conspiring to weaken or altogether dismantle Iran’s regional allies before setting upon Iran directly, years before the JCPOA was signed, US policymakers pledged to propose then intentionally betray a “superb offer” to help portray Iran rather than the United States as both an irrational threat to global security and a nation bent on acquiring nuclear weapons for the “wrong reasons.”
    The 2009 Brookings Institution report “Which Path to Persia?” explicitly described this ploy, stating:
    … any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.⁶ (emphasis in original)
    Cartalucci further relates that “shortly before US President Barack Obama ended his second term in office, preparations were already underway to backtrack on the Iran deal. With US President Donald Trump now presiding over US foreign policy, the US is preparing to either entirely withdraw from the deal or rewrite its conditions in such a fashion that Iran will be unable to accept it.”
    In other words, Trump’s current threats to undo the nuclear deal—threats which many properly view as a prelude to war—can be seen as a continuation of Obama’s plans against Iran, just as Obama’s plans were a continuation of Bush’s. Indeed, while few in this country are willing to admit it, there is an undeniable continuity in the foreign policy practices of US presidents, whether they be Republicans or Democrats.
    Quite possibly, this is because there are greater forces at work than our elected officials, such as the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us of back in the 1950s, which defines our nation’s international trajectory. And, as we shall see, the United States’ treachery against Iran can indeed be traced as far back as the Eisenhower Administration.
    As I learned while in Iran, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was always against negotiating with Obama over the nuclear deal, believing that the United States is not a reliable bargaining partner. Of course, the Ayatollah had good reason to doubt the United States’ sincerity in bargaining, given that its track record has been pretty bad, even hearkening back in colonial times when European settlers in the New World made deals with the Native Americans which they then turned around and reneged on even before the ink on the deal was dry.
    And, in the classic US tradition of projecting our own worst characteristics upon others, the settlers added insult to injury by referring to those who do not keep their word as “Indian givers,”⁷ when in fact they should be called “Settler givers” or “White givers.” This type of projection is also seen in the United States’ current accusations against others, such as Iran itself, as being state sponsors of terrorism when, as we shall shortly see, it is the United States which is the greatest sponsor of terror in the world.
    Of course, a more apt example of such “Settler giving” was Obama’s dealings with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, prevailing upon Gaddafi to give up Libya’s nuclear ambitions and seemingly welcoming Gaddafi back into the community of nations, only to invade his country, topple his government, and aid and abet Gaddafi’s brutal murder a short time thereafter.
    In any case, because the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, wanted the deal so badly to be able to make good on massive social spending he had promised Iranians, Khamenei told him to go ahead with talks. In the end, Khamenei, in his substantial wisdom, was correct in his misgivings. But given the potential tragic consequences of being proven right, there is little for Khamenei to gloat about.
    Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for the inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. … We must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
    —Michael Ledeen, US Neo-Con¹
    UNLIKE MANY IN THIS COUNTRY, I simply do not view Iran as a menace—neither to its neighbors, nor as a threat to us in any way. To the contrary, I see Iran as a country which is itself under existential threat and with much to fear, and Iran surely sees itself as a country under attack from all sides. One need only look at a map to see why this is so.
    Iran, known as Persia until WWII, is a country about the size of Alaska, and with about eighty million people. It borders many nations, nearly all of which it views to be hostile. It is bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, the Caspian Sea to the north, and the Persian Gulf to the south, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman lying just across the Persian Gulf.
    And, unlike most of its neighbors which have changed their identity and borders numerous times—or, more to the point, have had their borders changed for them—Iran has, despite being invaded on many occasions, remained a single, unified nation since 2500 BCE. As a consequence, Iran is “one of the more socially cohesive societies in the Middle East.”²
    For his part, writer Stephen Kinzer explains:
    Many countries in the Middle East are artificial creations. European colonialists drew their national borders in the nineteenth or twentieth century, often with little regard for local history and tradition, and their leaders have had to concoct outlandish myths in order to give citizens a sense of nationhood. Just the opposite is true of Iran. This is one of the world’s oldest nations, heir to a tradition that reaches back thousands of years, to periods when great conquerors extended their rule across continents, poets and artists created works of exquisite beauty, and one of the world’s extraordinary religious traditions took root and flowered.³
    Sadly, Iran’s ancient and proud history is often forgotten, or intentionally disregarded by the great powers, which have seen Iran only for its geo-political importance and its greatest resource—oil. During the Cold War, for example, when Iran bordered the southern part of the Soviet Union, it was viewed, especially by US foreign policy leaders, as a key chess piece in the struggle between the United States and the USSR.
    With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the consequent weakening of Russia as a world power, the United States has been committed to maintaining a unipolar world in which it is the one superpower. This doctrine was best expressed by President George H.W. Bush in his January 29, 1991, State of the Union Address in which he famously announced the construction of a “New World Order” which would be led by the United States—a nation he and other US presidents (e.g., Obama in his parting words to Trump) described as “indispensable.” Bush stated, “The United States bears a major share of leadership in this effort. Among the nations of the world, only the United States of America has both the moral standing and the means to back it up. We’re the only nation on this Earth that could assemble the forces of peace. This is the burden of leadership and the strength that has made America the beacon of freedom in a searching world.”⁴
    As author and political commentator Stephen Gowans explains,
    The implication of Bush’s New World Order was that the planet would be divided between nations destined to be dominated and one nation, the United States, which would dominate. Only the United States would have the right to independence, and the Pentagon, CIA, and US state and treasury departments would exercise leadership over the affairs of other countries. The expression of Bush’s declaration of US world leadership can be seen in the words of a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, who, in 2015, declared that the United States retains the “right,” the “responsibility,” and “the resources” to intervene in any country unilaterally to achieve US foreign policy goals.⁵
    The announcement of this “New World Order,” combined with the United States’ first invasion of Iraq in 1990-1991, changed Iran’s perception of its security in its region of the world and its relationship with Israel, which had been largely cooperative up to that point, despite the rhetoric of both countries against the other.⁶ In short, Iran decided that it had to aggressively protect its existence and interests in the Middle East in light of what it reasonably saw as the US-Israeli goal of remaking the region.⁷ As we would see time and time again, the United States’ own actions would unnecessarily provoke Iran and turn a potential and willing friend into an adversary.
    In addition, with Russia’s demise as a world power and Iraq’s demise as a regional power after successive US invasions, Iran has emerged once more as a regional power of its own—a power which the United States and the West are obsessed with containing as a threat to the “New World Order.” And the United States in particular has used ever more desperate and devilish means to try to do this.
    Meanwhile, it is Iran’s unbroken history and powerful traditions which make it the great nation it is, and which makes it so important to the Middle East and to all of humanity. Indeed, Iran is a critical civilizing influence in the world, if for no other reason than that it is intent upon preserving the culture and history within its borders and within its region of the world—a region which is indeed known as the “cradle of civilization,” having given birth to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and agriculture.
    The United States, on the other hand, though seeing itself as the protector of civilization, is destroying this region of the world, seemingly with intent. As just one example, Iran watched in 2003 as its neighbor Iraq—through which run both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and thus where the Garden of Eden might have been—was invaded by the United States and its coalition partners, suffering the worst destruction it ever had since the Mongol invasion of 1258 led by Genghis Khan. And Iranians are painfully aware that the United States is intent on doing the very same to their country.
    The United States has made it clear, certainly since President George W. Bush named Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union Address, that it is intent on militarily attacking Iran. In the meantime, the United States has been trying to weaken Iran through a combination of diplomatic isolation, economic warfare, sanctions, support for anti-government groups in Iran, and support of terrorism in nearby countries and in Iran itself.
    And so, beginning in late 2017, there were substantial anti-government demonstrations in Iran, which President Trump immediately seized upon as a sign that the people of Iran were ready to overthrow their government in the interest of freedom, and Trump and others certainly encouraged them to do so. Never mind that in a recent poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland only 0.3 percent of Iranians ranked “lack of civil liberties” in their country as their number one concern, whereas 40.1 percent listed unemployment, 12.5 percent listed inflation and high cost of living, 9.4 percent listed youth umemployment, and 6.9 percent listed low incomes.⁸
    In other words, by far the biggest concern Iranians have is with their economy, and, to the extent the US press was honest about this fact, nearly none explained how the West is largely behind Iran’s economic woes.
    One source which discussed this was the Independent of London, which, in an August 9, 2017, article explained how in early 2014 “Saudi Arabia launched this oil price war in tandem with the U.S.,” with the “main goal of crushing Russian and Iranian power and influence.”⁹ The story goes on to explain, by the way, how Venezuela became collateral damage of this war, much to the joy of the United States, of course.
    As the Independent relates, Saudi Arabia ran this play successfully against Iran in the late 1970s. Thus, “Back in 1977, when Iran was planning extensive nuclear power plants [by the way, with the approval and support of the United States] and envisaging the spread of its influence throughout the Middle East, the Saudi regime swamped the markets, expanding oil production from 8 million to almost 12 million barrels a day, sharply cutting the oil prices. Iran watched billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanish, and the Shah was forced to abandon his plans for nuclear investment. Manufacturing collapsed, inflation skyrocketed, unemployment rose steeply—and before long economic troubles had destroyed all support for the Iranian monarchy.”
    While the Independent does not go into this, it must be said that the United States supported Saudi Arabia’s oil war in 1977 for the same reason it supports it today—to undermine Russia, back then the USSR, of course. And, this oil war would help to fatally undermine the USSR as well.
    The Independent explains how Saudi Arabia pushed world oil production from a steady eighty million barrels a day to around ninety-seven million barrels by late 2015 in a repeat of its war against Iran.
    With the current US economic sanctions added to this oil war, Iran and its people have suffered greatly and will continue to, but this is all according to plan, with the hope being that the people will suffer enough to support another regime change. Yes, this is a cruel policy—indeed an act of economic terrorism in that it constitutes the intentional infliction of injury against the civilian population to bring about a desired political end—but it is par for the course for the United States. And, as we shall see, the United States ran this play quite successfully in toppling Iran’s first democratic leader in the 1950s.
    Commentator Vijay Prashad is one of the few journalists to link US sanctions and the US-Saudi oil war to the recent protests in Iran.¹⁰ As he explains, the recent protests are different than those of the Green Movement in 2009, which were more about demands for political reforms and liberalization—protests which were successful in bringing about the reform presidency of Hassan Rouhani who was recently re-elected. As Prashad notes, Rouhani has eased “social sanctions” in Iran, where women now “openly sit in public without the veil,” and Rouhani’s secretary of the National Security Council announced that “restrictions on imprisoned reformist leaders would be lifted.”
    Prashad explains that “the current wave of protests … is an upsurge against the privations in Iran—unemployment [which is nearly 13 percent overall and around 50 percent for the youth], deprivation and hopelessness.” And, these privations are the direct result of both the oil war and Western sanctions against Iran which have never really eased up, the nuclear deal with Iran notwithstanding.
    As Prashad notes, Western sanctions against Iran—ostensibly in response to Iran’s nuclear program—“cost Iran more than $160 billion in oil revenues since 2012. The penalty was borne by ordinary Iranians, who saw their standard of living fall and their aspirations for the future narrow.” And, while President Rouhani promised economic improvements with the nuclear deal, “since the nuclear deal, the handcuffs on Iran remain. The U.S.—under Trump—tightened non-nuclear sanctions [in mid-2017]. Trump’s belligerence towards Iran has stayed the hand of many transnational firms that had earlier expressed interest in making investments in Iran. Rouhani’s bet has not really paid off. The 2015 nuclear deal … did not fully provide the kind of relief needed for the Iranian population. Expectations were raised, but little has been delivered.”
    Indeed, when I was in Iran, a number of people complained to me that while the Iranians have kept up their side of the nuclear deal, going so far as to pour concrete into their nuclear enrichment facilities, they have never received the benefits of the deal.
    And, as I write these words, Trump has threatened to re-impose the nuclear sanctions against Iran in place prior to the nuclear deal which Iran has unquestionably abided by. Such a move will only increase the suffering of the Iranian people, but that has never appeared to be of concern for the powers that be in the United States.
    In addition to the economic war, the United States has also been involved in supporting terrorist groups against Iran. The most notable such groups as the Mujahadeen e-Khalq (“MEK” or “MKO”), a longtime nemesis of the Islamic Republic and a group which the US State Department listed as a terrorist group back in 1992. Indeed, it was Saddam Hussein’s support for the MEK which was a basis for the United States claiming that he was a state sponsor of terrorism.¹¹
    The United States’ connivance with the MEK has been well known for some time. As Iranian scholar Trita Parsi explains, the United States’ support for the MEK has been “an open secret in Washington. In late May 2003, ABC News reported that the Pentagon was calling for the overthrow of the Iranian regime by “using all available points of pressure on the Iranian regime, including backing armed Iranian dissidents and employing the services of the Mujahadeen e-Khalq.”¹²
    The website Global Research cites Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations—the most influential US foreign policy think tank—for the proposition that the MEK is a “cult-like organization” with “totalitarian tendencies,” going so far as to hold “many members against their will with the threat of death if ever they are caught attempting to escape.”¹³
    As Global Research further relates, “to this day MEK terrorists have been carrying out attacks inside Iran killing political opponents, attacking civilian targets, as well as carrying out the U.S.-Israeli program of targeting and assassinating Iranian scientists.” Indeed, when I was in Iran, I was told that the Iranian government estimates that the MEK has carried out terrorist attacks within Iran killing around seventeen thousand people—that is, the equivalent of nearly six 9/11’s in a country a quarter the size of the United States.
    MEK’s terrorist actions have not been limited to Iranian targets, but have also been aimed at Americans:
    MEK has carried out decades of brutal terrorist attacks, assassinations, and espionage against the Iranian government and its people, as well as targeting Americans including the attempted kidnapping of U.S. Ambassador Douglas MacArthur II, the attempted assassination of USAF Brigadier General Harold Price, the successful assassination of Colonel Paul Shaffer and Lieutenant Colonel Jack Turner, and the successful ambush and killing of American Rockwell employees William Cottrell, Donald Smith, and Robert Krongard.¹⁴
    The MEK is also accused by the US State Department of having participated “in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and later argued against the release of the hostages.” Then, after leaving Iran and joining up with Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, the MEK took “part in the bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shiites and Kurds who rose up against Saddam Hussein’s regime at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.”¹⁵
    Given all of this, it may seem surprising that the MEK was de-listed as a terrorist organization by the Obama Administration in 2012. Again, consider this when assessing Obama’s sincerity in later agreeing to the nuclear deal with Iran. As Tony Cartalucci notes, de-listing a still-active terrorist group which targets Iran shortly before signing what appears to be a peace deal with Iran seems suspicious at best.¹⁶
    Far from being treated as the brutal terrorist group it is, the MEK has now been given the stamp of approval by the United States. For example, John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush and now President Trump’s national security adviser, addressed the MEK conference in Paris, France, in July 2017 when I happened to be in Iran. At this conference, Bolton made it clear that he backed the MEK and that he said expressly that Trump must work toward regime change in Iran so that the Islamic Republic would not reach its fortieth birthday (in February 2019). Bolton has indeed been openly calling for war with Iran for some time, and he now holds a critical position in the Trump Administration from which he could start it.
    And sadly, as the American Conservative magazine noted in 2015,¹⁷ “Bolton is hardly the only former official, retired officer, or ex-politician to do this [Rudi Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Democrat Howard Dean, former CIA directors Porter Goss and James Woolsley, and former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge are others],¹⁸ but for the last several years he has been a vocal cheerleader of the Mujahideen-e Khalq cult (and ‘former’ terrorist group) and its political organization. He has consistently misrepresented a totalitarian cult as a ‘democratic’ Iranian opposition group,” though it “has absolutely no support in its own country in order to achieve regime change.”
    And, of course, Bolton and others were aided in this effort by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who removed them “from the terrorist list in 2012 after a campaign that included both Democratic and Republican politicians, some of whom received sizable fees to speak to the exile’s group annual gatherings.”¹⁹ The MEK even has an office in Washington, DC now.
    This should not be too surprising given the United States’ support for other terrorist groups which have done even greater harm around the world, including to US persons and interests. And again, the United States has been supporting these other terrorist groups largely to weaken Iran.
    * * *
    While those bent upon Iran’s demise often accuse it of being a state sponsor of terrorism, and while recent US sanctions on Iran are premised upon this claim, there is certainly no evidence that Iran is supporting terrorism against the United States. As Lawrence Wilkerson, former CIA analyst and top National Security Council member under George W. Bush, recently explained in an op-ed in the New York Times:
    Today, the analysts claiming close ties between al-Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran.
    It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.²⁰
    Indeed, the claim that Iran is linked to al-Qaeda is particularly galling given that Iran vigorously denounced the 9/11 attacks, is a sworn enemy of al-Qaeda, and indeed helped the United States with the war on terror after 9/11. But of course, nothing the United States has done in the Middle East makes any sense in the context of a war on terror or a rational response to 9/11.
    Thus in 2003 the United States, claiming to be acting in response to the 9/11 attacks, finally deposed Saddam Hussein in the second US invasion of that country—though it is clear that Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and the United States was quite aware of this fact.
    One of the quite predictable consequences of the ousting of Saddam Hussein, who had imposed minority Sunni rule over the majority Shiite population, was to bring a Shiite government into power. This government, also not surprisingly, then found a friend in neighboring Shiite Iran. The United States then panicked at Iran’s resulting ascendancy in the Middle East and aimed at doing something to undo this.
    What the United States did next was best explained by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his March 5, 2007, article entitled “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?”²¹ This article turned out to be quite prescient and helpful in understanding the current conflict in the Middle East.
    In this piece, Hersh explains how, in the mid-2000s, the United States was already shifting its policy away from its post-9/11 “war on terror” which purported to attack Sunni extremists (e.g., al-Qaeda) and instead toward attacking Shiite organizations and governments in the Middle East in order to weaken Iran, which it had just strengthened with its 2003 invasion of Iraq. And, the United States waged these anti-Shia attacks with the help of the very Sunni extremists we claimed to be at war with.
    As Hersh writes in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, “The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”
    Obama continued this policy of George W. Bush, thus aligning with jihadists in Libya to topple Muammar Gaddafi—one of the most aggressive enemies of al-Qaeda and with Sunni extremists in Syria in order to topple, or at least weaken, the Syrian government in Damascus and then pave the way for toppling Syria’s ally, Iran.
    Indeed, as journalist Ben Norton explains, it was just revealed by Obama’s former ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, that the United States spent $12 billion from 2014 to 2017 in regime-change efforts in Syria, contradicting claims by supporters of the Syrian opposition that Obama “did nothing” in Syria during this time.²² And, this figure most likely does not include additional monies spent by the CIA on such efforts.
    Ben Norton cites the New York Times for the proposition that “the CIA program in Syria was ‘one of the most expensive efforts to arm and train rebels since the agency’s program arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980’s,’ which gave birth to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” For his part, former ambassador Ford was one of the officials who also busted the “moderate Syrian rebel” myth, decrying the fact that the rebels the US was supporting in Syria were closely collaborating with, and indeed backed by, al-Qaeda and ISIS.²³
    As for Libya, the United States and other countries of the West served as the air force for the extremist groups trying to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011. And, they did so knowing that this could, and probably would, result in an extremist takeover of Libya. For example, in an email between then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the architects of the Libyan invasion, and close adviser Sydney Blumenthal, Blumenthal explains that “traditionally, the eastern part of Libya has been a stronghold for radical Islamist groups, including the al-Qaida linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. While Qaddafi’s regime has been successful in suppressing the jihadist threat in Libya, the current situation [meaning the NATO intervention] opens the door for jihadist resurgence.”²⁴
    I actually met Gaddafi’s last foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, in Caracas, Venezuela, and he made a point to tell me that he personally warned US officials at the UN Security Council that they would open up a Pandora’s box of extremism if they went ahead with their plans for intervention and regime change. He also asked for a one-hour delay of the commencement of the NATO bombing to allow for an inspection of Benghazi to confirm that there was no humanitarian crisis there as was being alleged to justify the intervention. Kaim was ignored on both counts by US officials, who were committed to war at any cost.
    And, as predicted, if not intended, the jihadist resurgence took place, with violent extremists taking over Libya and then moving on to other countries like Mali, Tunisia, and Syria. In addition, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which NATO effectively partnered with during the Libyan operation, ended up committing an act of terrorism in Great Britain with an improvised bombing of the Manchester Arena, killing twenty-two people including women and children.²⁵
    In January of 2018, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that we will be staying in northern Syria indefinitely, not to counter ISIS or al-Qaeda, but instead, to counter Iran. What is curious, again, is that while it is true that Iran has been intervening in Syria, it has done so legally, upon the invitation of the sovereign Syrian government, which is not true of the United States’ unilateral intervention. Moreover, Iran has been fighting the same forces that the United States has claimed it is fighting—namely, ISIS and al-Qaeda. As one commentator reasonably queried:
    As with anything the Trump administration mentions about the Middle East, there is always the bogeyman of Iran. And as usual, Iran is described in general pejoratives—the lead adjective on the subject in [Secretary of State] Tillerson’s speech [about the U.S.’s decision to stay in Syria] was “malignant”—without addressing exactly how Iran’s position in, and relationship with, Syria threatens any U.S. interests. Nor was there any recognition of the inconsistency of justifying a U.S. military intervention that was supposed to be about opposing IS by talking about malignancy on the part of a regional power [Iran] that itself has been opposing IS, in Iraq as well as Syria.²⁶
    In terms of Iran’s anti-terrorist operations in Iraq, even some mainstream news sources have had to admit that, with the permission of the Iraqi government, Iran has been supporting thousands of Shia militias in Iraq who are “essential to the fight” against ISIS and al-Qaeda there.²⁷
    Meanwhile, it is generally accepted that ISIS directly grew out of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by the US following the intervention. Thus, as NPR recently noted, ISIS was originally led and manned by former Iraqi detainees who were radicalized by their abuse at the hands of the US military. In the words of NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, “ISIS actually evolved out of a U.S. detention center,” and is thus “a monster of our own making.”²⁸
    What’s more, ISIS continues to be a US monster as the United States has made common cause with ISIS and al-Qaeda in its low-intensity war against Iran.
    Quite revealing is a document put out by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), an external intelligence service of the United States federal government specializing in defense and military intelligence. In this document, dated August 2012, and later declassified and provided to Judicial Watch pursuant to a FOIA request, the DIA makes it clear that Russia, China, and Iran are supporting the Syrian government, while “the West [namely, the United States and Israel], Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”²⁹ The document goes on to explain that al-Qaeda—Iraq (AQI) “supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning,” corroborating President Assad’s claims that terrorists were involved with the opposition uprising from the very outset.
    The DIA further explains that AQI is opposed to the Syrian government and wages war upon it because it regards “Syria as an infidel regime for its support of the infidel Party Hezbollah, and other [Shiite] regimes he considers dissenters like Iran and Iraq.”
    Incredibly, the DIA goes on to state, indeed to admit, that “if the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
    Of course, when the DIA states that the “supporting powers to the opposition” want the establishment of a Salafist principality (or, Caliphate) to counter Iran and Iraq, it means that the United States and Israel, among others, desire this. In other words, while we have been led to believe the United States is sending our soldiers to fight and die overseas to take on the terrorists, the United States is actually supporting the terrorists. And, equally horrifying, the DIA makes it clear that the United States welcomes the unraveling of the situation to bring about the Salafist principality in Syria; in other words, chaos is the desired means to the United States’ desired end, which appears to be … more chaos!
    Indeed, “former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms … that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was ‘a willful decision.’ ”³⁰
    In 2015, President Obama himself confirmed the statements in the DIA document as well as Flynn’s assessment of it, making clear his intention to merely “contain” ISIS, rather than to destroy it as he originally promised, given that, in his assessment, outright destroying ISIS at that time would be counterproductive to the United States’ interest of unseating Syrian President Assad and confronting Iran—again, as with the Iran-Iraq war, the goal has been to keep the conflict at a slow burn, without putting out the fire altogether, so as to weaken and bleed all parties.³¹
    Henry Kissinger—who should be in jail given his overseeing many a war crime from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to Chile, but who is now treated as an elder statesman—recently warned Trump that he should not destroy ISIS altogether lest Iran be strengthened in the process.³² Speaking for many in the US foreign policy establishment, Kissinger opined that, while countries such as Iran believe we should finish off ISIS and would gladly help us do it, an ascendant Iran is even more dangerous and permitting ISIS to exist may help prevent this. Sounding like the madman he is, Kissinger said that “the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy.”³³
    This policy of “containment,” rather than the outright destruction, of ISIS has borne the desired fruit, with Iran now suffering “the kind of terrorist attacks that have hit Arab and Western capitals.”³⁴ This was seen most dramatically with the ISIS attack in June of 2017 upon the Iranian parliament and mausoleum of the Ayatollah Khomeini. This took place just before my visit to Iran and was very much a topic of conversation there, with many opining that this attack was ultimately the handiwork of the United States.
    Of course, there are terrible potential consequences for this dance with the devil, especially if this devil cannot be contained. Indeed, the DIA predicted in its August 2012 document one such dire consequence which did come to pass shortly thereafter. As the DIA explained, AQI’s setting up a Salafist state in Syria with US support “creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the Jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the Dissenters [most notably Iran and the government of Iraq]. ISI could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
    As we all know, the extremists, in the form of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), did just what the DIA predicted, returning to Mosul, Iraq, and declaring a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq in June of 2014. They would go on to wreak havoc in Mosul and terrorize the population. With the genie that the United States helped conjure now out of the bottle, US coalition forces, after waiting over a year and a half for sufficient damage to be done, commenced an aggressive bombing campaign in February of 2017 to oust ISIS from Mosul.
    There are estimates of at least forty thousand civilians killed in what has come to be known as the Battle of Mosul.³⁵ This battle was marked by major war crimes committed on all sides of the conflict as Amnesty International (AI) reported in its 2017 report, “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq.”³⁶
    For its part, according to AI, ISIS “summarily killed hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women and children as they attempted to flee and hanged their bodies in public areas.” ISIS also moved thousands of civilians into the zone of combat, effectively using them as human shields. In addition, ISIS denied the civilian population food, water, and access to medical care. By the end of the nearly six-month battle, civilians were feeding off of underground spelt and grass to survive. Meanwhile, ISIS nearly wiped out Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, killing between four to six thousand of their eight thousand total troops.
    Not to be outdone, the Coalition forces, led by the United States, indiscriminately bombed huge swaths of Mosul, killing at least 5,800 civilians in the process. According to Amnesty International, the indiscriminate and disproportionate nature of this bombing most certainly constituted a war crime.
    One such example of US war crimes was the March 17, 2017, bombing of West Mosul which killed at least 137, and possibly as many as 500, civilians. The Washington Post would later describe this as one of the worst US-led civilian bombings in the past twenty-five years. As the Post explained, this one bombing “could possibly rank [as] one of the most devastating attacks on civilians by American forces in more than two decades.”³⁷
    By design, the United States, through its policy of playing one Middle East country against another and of at various times creating, supporting, or just tolerating various terrorist groups, has unleashed indescribable chaos upon the region. This has not only caused untold loss of life and suffering to the people of the region, but has also led to the eradication of their history and culture.
    Here is but a partial list of the destruction that ISIS, the sometimes ally of the United States in its quest to undermine Iran, has wrought in just Iraq and Syria alone: in Mosul, Iraq, ISIS blew up the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its leaning minaret, trashed the Mosul museum as well as other museums and libraries, and dynamited Christian churches and mosques; in nearby Nineva, an ancient Assyrian city on the outskirts of Mosul, it destroyed many of the ancient ruins and antiquities; in other parts of Iraq, ISIS has destroyed the fourth century Catholic Mar Behnam Monastery, the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus, and the Imam Dur Mausoleum; in Palmyra, Syria, ISIS destroyed ancient Roman ruins, such as the Temple of Baalshamin and the Temple of Baal; and elsewhere in Syria ISIS has destroyed such treasures as the Christian Mar Elian Monastery.³⁸
    Meanwhile, the United States itself has also done a great job of destroying vast swaths of countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria too, and ancient artifacts therein. For example, the US invasions of Iraq have opened that country’s, and in truth the world’s, antiquities for mass looting, and the US forces have done nothing to stop this. As Noam Chomsky points out, after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003,
    The Pentagon officials in charge did make sure that other sites were protected, however: the oil and security ministries. Elsewhere, looting and destruction, including of irreplaceable treasures of civilization, proceeded unconstrained. Two years after the invasion, the president of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, Macguire Gibson, sadly confirmed that ‘Iraq is losing its culture and its wealth.’ By then, more than half of the nation’s archeological sites, including most major Sumerian ones, had been destroyed. ‘The Americans are not doing anything,’ Gibson added. … The losses at these sites dwarfed even the massive looting of the National Museum shortly after the US troops arrived, in which at least 15,000 to 20,000 looted pieces disappeared, probably forever.³⁹
    Israel too is engaged in its own campaign of mass destruction, particularly of what is left of the Palestinian people. Thus, with the complicity of the United States, Israel is literally starving out the Palestinians, particularly those who occupy the Gaza Strip, in what is clearly an act of slow-moving genocide. Indeed, betraying Israel’s genocidal intent, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, recently stated that there are “no innocent people in Gaza”; this intent is being manifest in the collective punishment of all of Gaza.
    As Amnesty International explains in its most recent annual report,
    Gaza [has] remained under an Israeli air, sea and land blockade, in force since June 2007. The continuing restrictions on imports of construction materials under the blockade, and funding shortages, contributed to severe delays in reconstruction of homes and other infrastructure damaged or destroyed in recent armed conflicts. Continuing restrictions on exports crippled the economy and exacerbated widespread impoverishment among Gaza’s 1.9 million inhabitants. The Egyptian authorities’ almost total closure of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza completed its isolation and compounded the impact of the Israeli blockade.
    According to the United Nations which puts it quite bluntly, Gaza will be “unlivable” by 2020—that is, in just a couple short years. As the UN explains, “Gaza has continued on its trajectory of ‘de-development,’ in many cases even faster than we had originally projected.” One of the biggest issues confronting Gaza, the UN explains, is the near total lack of electricity for its residents, which makes keeping food and many life-saving medicines impossible.
    The truth is that, for many, Gaza is already unlivable. In a recent interview in the Israeli paper Haaretz entitled “Gaza Kids Live in Hell: A Psychologist Tells of Rampant Sexual Abuse, Drugs and Despair,” trauma treatment expert Mohammed Mansour relates that the situation in Gaza has taken a drastic turn for the worse even in recent months. Dr. Mansour explains, in his most recent visit,
    I encountered a large number of cases of sexual abuse among the children. That’s a phenomenon that has always existed, but in this visit, and also in the previous visit, in August, it suddenly reached far larger dimensions. It’s become positively huge. More than one-third of the children I saw in the Jabalya [refugee] camp reported being sexually abused. Children from ages 5 to 13.
    Dr. Manour makes it abundantly clear that it is the Israeli blockade and the resulting “de-development” of Gaza that is leading to this dire situation:
    Most people don’t work, and those who do, earn pennies—the average salary is 1,000 shekels a month [$285]. Mentally and physically, parents are simply not capable of supporting their children. They are immersed in their own depression, their own trauma. …
    I’ve seen the starvation. I visit meager, empty homes. The refrigerator is off even during the hours when they have electric power, because there’s nothing in it. The children tell me that they eat once a day; some eat once every two days.
    As Dr. Manour concluded, “The trauma does not end and will not end. Adults and children live in terrible pain, they’re only looking for how to escape it. We also see growing numbers of addicts.”⁴⁰
    As the UN Development Program (UNDP) determined in a series of Arab Development Reports, the Israeli occupation of Palestine has, among other things such as the US invasion of Iraq, “ ‘adversely influenced’ human development.”⁴¹
    Meanwhile, President Trump has suspended $65 million of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and is backing out of giving another $45 million of aid for food to the Palestinians. Even hard-liners in Israel have complained that this amounts to a death sentence for thousands of Palestinians.
    Not content to merely wipe out the Palestinian people, Israel is also bent on destroying their cultural heritage, even going so far as to claim that the Palestinians have no heritage or history of their own to begin with. Indeed, a book last year which quickly shot to number one in Amazon’s “Middle East History” category, before being pulled from the website, was A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era by Israeli author Assaf Voll.⁴² This book, which purported to be “the comprehensive and extensive review of some 3,000 years of Palestinian history” consisted of 120 blank pages—a cruel joke attempting to show that the Palestinians have no history. Apparently, for many, it is not enough that Israel is destroying the Palestinian people; it must also destroy any memory of them, as well.
    This is reminiscent of the scene in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude when, after a banana strike was crushed by the Colombian military and the strikers killed, the banana company (in real life, the United Fruit Company in the town of Ciénaga, Colombia in 1928) had all of the strikers’ bodies loaded onto railcars and taken away. Eventually, the strikers, the strike, and even the banana company itself, which ended up abandoning the area, were forgotten by the people of the town.
    I fear that a time may come soon when the people, culture, traditions, religion, and ancient architecture of the Islamic world are ground into oblivion and then forgotten.
    Another sign that this may be the endgame as far as the United States in particular is concerned is the United States’ long-time war with UNESCO—the UN agency tasked with preserving world cultural sites—and President Trump’s recent announcement that the United States was backing out of UNESCO entirely and would not pay the $550 million it already owes to that agency.⁴³
    And, not surprisingly, the United States made this decision precisely because UNESCO was doing its job in trying to preserve Palestinian culture from destruction. As the New York Times explains, the United States’ decision was in response to the fact that “in July, UNESCO declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger, a decision sharply criticized by Israel and its allies. And in 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned ‘Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship.’ ” The destruction of the Palestinian people and culture must go on, as far as the United States is concerned.
    In the foregoing ways, ISIS, the United States, and Israel seem to have similar intentions, at least in the short run, and that is to destroy the Middle East as we know it. Maybe the plan is to make it into a giant oil refinery, with some poppy fields on the side, or to turn it into an appendage of Europe and/or Israel. Maybe the idea is to destroy all of the Middle East’s capacity for oil production so that the world will have to depend upon US fossil fuel production, now the greatest in the world. Or, maybe the idea is to turn it into a giant parking lot as some like Ronald Reagan had advocated for Vietnam, famously saying that “we could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.” In any case, the goal appears to be to wipe out what and who is there now.
    In truth, it is Iran which is one of the few countries standing in the way of this nihilistic project by promoting a humane version of Islam, fighting the very terrorists the United States merely claims to be fighting, and trying to bring stability to neighboring countries such as Iraq.
    Indeed, as Middle East expert Vali Nasr related recently in Foreign Affairs, “Without Iran’s military reach and the strength of its network of allies and clients in Iraq and Syria, ISIS would have quickly swept through Damascus, Baghdad, and Erbil (the capital of Iraqi’s Kurdistan), before reaching Iran’s own borders.”⁴⁴ In other words, what the United States and Israel usually term Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is in fact a fight against terrorism, and an effective one at that. However, given the United States’ and Israel’s general confusion between wars on terror and wars for terror, this mistake is not surprising.
    Meanwhile, during the times that the United States is in the mood to confront ISIS, it will sometimes appear to be working in concert with Iran in doing so. As Patrick Cockburn has explained, for example:
    In Iraq the US and Iranians are still publicly denouncing each other, but when Iranian-controlled Shia militias attacked north Baghdad in September [of 2014] to end the ISIS siege of the Shia Turkoman town of Amerli, their advance was made possible by US air strikes on ISIS positions. When the discredited Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was replaced by Haider al-Abadi during the same period, the change was backed by both Washington and Tehran.⁴⁵
    In short, if the United States really wants to fight terrorism and to bring stability to the Middle East, it would appear that Iran would be a worthy partner with which to do this.
    This, of course, begs the question of why Iran is such a big bugaboo for the United States and why it is seemingly bent on finding pretexts to justify attacking it. To answer this question, I would submit, we must go back about seventy-five years to the very beginning of the United States’ relationship with Iran and to the fount of the discord between these two countries.
    MY TWO SONS HAVE GONE TO public school in Pittsburgh throughout grade school and secondary education. While they were in grade school, the superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools was Mark Roosevelt, a quite innovative and erudite individual who moved here from Boston. Roosevelt, who served as superintendent between 2005 and 2010, had the unenviable and unpopular job of overseeing the closing and consolidation of numerous schools in order to rescue the cash-strapped school district. While it was often pointed out with great pride that Mark is the great-grandchild of President Teddy Roosevelt, it was rare that Mark’s father was ever mentioned. It was his father, however, who played a key and fateful role in the history of Iran and in the trajectory of US-Iranian relations for many years to come, Mark’s father being the legendary Kermit Roosevelt—the CIA bureau chief in Tehran who led the coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953.
    The CIA-led coup against Mossadegh has been written about extensively, including by Kermit Roosevelt himself in his tell-all and self-serving book, Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran (1981). However, it was not until 2017 that the Bureau of Public Affairs of the US State Department released a huge trove of documents revealing the CIA’s role in the coup.¹ As one author, describing a more limited release of CIA documents in 2013, explains, “The documents’ existence and contents contrast sharply with a report in the New York Times in 1997 that quoted CIA officials stating falsely that most of the documents relating to Iran in 1953 were either lost or destroyed in the early 1960’s, allegedly because the record-holders’ safes were too full.”²
    The documents released in 2017, containing recently-declassified information (though much is still classified), are quite instructive, for they show how our government officials can hold completely contradictory ideas in their minds at the same time (for example, that the Soviet Union was a threat to US interests in Iran when on the very next page they conclude that it really was not), and then formulate policies and actions based upon these ideas. The resulting policies and actions, when viewed dispassionately, seem to make no sense at all, and do not even seem reasonably aimed at accomplishing the stated goals (e.g., democracy and freedom). But sadly, and incredibly, the self-contradictory nature of such policies is never pointed out, either by government officials, by the press, or by educators, and so our nation continues to act out in ways that can only be described as irrational and insane, and which result in utter disaster for everyone involved.
    For over the past century, Iran’s greatest resource, and at the same time its greatest curse, has been its oil. In 1901, the corrupt Iranian monarch, Muzaffar al-Din Shah, sold the entirety of Iran’s oil and natural gas rights for a mere twenty-thousand pounds to William Knox D’Arcy, a financier based in London.³ In 1908, D’Arcy’s concession was reconfigured as the Anglo Persian Oil Company (APOC), 51 percent of which was later bought by the British government.
    Meanwhile, in 1906, inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1905, the people of Iran (then called Persia) rose up to challenge the power of the Shah, and their uprising was crushed by both Great Britain and czarist Russia, the czar of Russia having violently crushed his own people’s attempted revolution as well.
    The one concrete thing to come out of this revolt was an elected parliament known as the Majlis, which has existed since then and to the present time, subject to being suspended at times, in various forms and with various degrees of authority.
    Then, in 1907, Russia and the United Kingdom drew up the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which divided Iran into two parts; Russia received the north and Britain the South, and the Shah was left with a small piece in the middle. This partitioning was done without Iran even participating in the discussions.
    After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Soviet Union renounced most of its rights in Iran and canceled the country’s debts owed to the czar.
    Meanwhile, pursuant to the “harsh Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919” which gave the British “control over Iran’s army, treasury, transport system, and communications network,”⁴ the APOC continued to extract Iran’s oil and to refine it in the world’s largest oil refinery on the island of Abadan at the north end of the Persian Gulf, and to ship it out of the country for sale. As one commentator notes, “Not only was the oil a source of fabulous wealth for the British, it also gave them the edge in the world as both an industrial and naval power.”⁵
    However, Iran’s oil wealth was not benefitting its people, who still lived in abject poverty. This was due to the fact that “Tehran was only earning between ten and twelve percent in royalties on APOC’s net proceeds, which meant that the British government was making far more revenue from Iranian oil than the Iranian government.” To make matters worse, most of APOC’s Iranian workers were poorly paid and housed in bad conditions. As Stephen Dorril describes, the company effectively operated as though “it was still the nineteenth century, regarding Iranians as merely wogs.”⁶ Kermit Roosevelt would acknowledge later, just after the 1953 coup, that 90 percent of the Iranian population was illiterate even at that time.⁷
    Indeed, as D. F. Fleming explains in his lost classic The Cold War and Its Origins, the people of Iran were kept “in a state of squalor unequaled in the world.”⁸ Fleming relates that “in some villages 90 percent of the people had malaria, and infant mortality exceeded 50 percent.” Iran, according to Fleming, was truly “ ‘a nation in rags.’ Abject misery was graven on most faces. Even in Teheran anyone standing on the street would be approached by a beggar every five minutes.”
    In 1921, the British engineered a coup against the Shah in power at that time, and by 1926, a new Shah, Reza Shah, had consolidated his position. It was Reza Shah who changed the name of Persia to Iran (literally, “land of the Arians”) in the 1930s. While the British still controlled Iran’s oil industry, they left it to Reza Shah to run the government and military.
    While Reza Shah tried to modernize the country, he used brutal methods against the population and was a Nazi sympathizer.⁹ Reza Shah soon decided to align Iran with Nazi Germany and invited hundreds of Germans into Iran to help with the construction of factories, roads, bridges, and other buildings. As Ryszard Kapuscinsi explains in his Shah of Shahs, “The Shah admired Hitler and surrounded himself with Hitler’s people. There were Germans all over Iran, in the palace, the ministries, the army. The Abwehr [Germany military intelligence] became a force to reckon with in Teheran, and the Shah looked on approvingly.”
    When I was in Iran, it was explained to me that the Nazis actually helped build a prison in the early 1930s which became a torture center for the Iranian security apparatus (known as the SAVAK) set up by the CIA in 1957. Upon my own request, I visited this prison, now the Ebrat Museum, while in Tehran. We were led on a tour of the center (preserved as it had been while being run by the SAVAK) by a man who had himself been imprisoned there and tortured by the SAVAK.
    One of the cells contains a life-sized mannequin made to resemble current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spent eight months in that very prison cell and who suffered greatly at the hands of the SAVAK. In addition, many of the rooms are still adorned just as they would have been before 1979, with the framed photos of the last Shah of Iran, along with his beautiful wife and his young son. Many of the halls are lined with row after row of photos of the thousands of other inmates of this prison, many of whom never made it out of there in one piece, if at all.
    Of course, there were many Iranians at the time who abhorred the Nazis and their war against Jews and ethnic minorities. One such Iranian was Abdol-Hossein Sardari, who was the head of Iran’s diplomatic mission in Paris, France, at the time of the Nazi invasion. Sardari, today known as the “Iranian Schindler,” would use his position there, and the Iranian government’s good graces with Germany at the time, to save over two thousand Iranian Jews [over twice the number of Jews saved by Schindler himself] who were trapped in occupied France.¹⁰ He provided these individuals “with the passports and travel documents they needed for safe-passage through Nazi-occupied Europe,” and back to Iran which, despite the government’s relationship with Germany, was still a safe place for Jews to reside. In his work, and even in communications to the Nazis, Sardari appealed to Iranian history, and in particular to the reign of “the Persian Emperor Cyrus [who] had freed Jewish exiles in Babylon in 538 BC” and allowed them to return to their homes.
    In 1941, the British and the Soviets invaded Iran to oust the Germans, and Iran then signed a treaty with the Allies. At that time, the Shah was also forced to abdicate his throne, and his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was sworn in as the new Shah of Iran. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi would ultimately be the last Shah of Iran. Meanwhile, Abdol-Hossein Sardari, who was then recalled by the Iranian government from his post as a diplomat in occupied France, nonetheless stayed in Paris, at great peril to himself, to continue his humanitarian work of saving Iranian Jews and others.¹¹
    It was against this backdrop that, in the early 1950s, the people of Iran united around a talented, nationalist politician to try to gain true independence—independence which necessarily included more Iranian control over its precious oil resources. The politician’s name was Mohammed Mossadegh.
    Mossadegh, upon being elected to the Majlis’ oil committee, and suspecting that the British were shortchanging the Iranians on the oil royalties owed them, initially made the quite reasonable request for the British to open Anglo Persian’s financial books. The British refused this request as well as Mossadegh’s request to train Iranians in technical jobs of the oil industry. When Mossadegh was elected head of the Majlis’ oil committee, he then demanded that Iran receive half the profits of the Anglo Persian Oil Company. Again, Britain refused.
    It was only after the British refusals of these reasonable requests that the Majlis, under the leadership of Mossadegh who was elected prime minister by overwhelming vote of the Majlis on April 28, 1951, finally decided to nationalize Iran’s oil industry on May 1, 1951. As one commentator points out, it was at this very time that Britain was beginning to nationalize its own coal, electric rail, and steel industries, under the leadership of the Labor Party which had been the governing party since the end of WWII.¹² But what was good for the goose was not good for the gander, and so, in retaliation for Iran’s nationalization, the British stopped exporting refined oil from the Abbadan refinery, and Iran, without tankers or oil technicians of its own, could neither run the refinery nor export any oil.
    Once Winston Churchill returned as UK prime minister in October of 1951, Britain took even more aggressive action against Mossadegh, buying off Iranian media and undermining the country’s economy.¹³
    At this point, the British Empire was in its death throes, and Britain was attempting to cling to at least some of its empire with all of its might. In addition to countries like Iran, Britain in the early 1950s was also attempting to subjugate countries like Kenya, where Britain would attempt to wipe out the rebellious Kikuyu ethnic group. As has recently been exposed, the United Kingdom, under Churchill’s leadership, imprisoned 1.5 million Kikuyu in “a network of detention camps,” much like Stalin’s gulags, where they “suffered forced labour, disease, starvation, torture, rape and murder.”¹⁴ Possibly hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu died in what some, including historian Caroline Elkins, have termed Britain’s genocidal campaign against them.¹⁵ Ironically, while Churchill decried Stalin’s gulags, and warned of the USSR’s “Iron Curtain” descending upon Eastern Europe, he had no qualms about his own gulags in Africa.
    Still, Britain’s empire was on the wane, while the United States’ was on the rise. And so Britain, whose embassy had been shut down by Mossadegh after he learned of Britain’s coup plans, turned to its faithful ally for help. Churchill was initially rebuffed by President Harry S. Truman, who simply had no interest in a project aimed at maximizing the United Kingdom’s oil profits, and who himself was busy in a campaign of mass slaughter of his own in Korea. So, Churchill then turned to the newly-elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower for assistance.
    Having learned from Truman’s rebuke, PM Churchill, along with the newly-formed CIA under Allen Dulles who happened to be an associate of the firm providing legal counsel for APOC,¹⁶ came up with a more tried and true pitch for getting rid of Mossadegh—rescuing Iran and the Middle East from the specter of Communism.¹⁷ This sales point worked like a charm on Eisenhower, who readily green-lighted a US-instigated coup against Mossadegh. The coup plot was dubbed “Operation Ajax.”
    The coup plot was carried out by the CIA, headed by Allen Dulles, in close coordination with the US State Department, then headed by Allen’s brother John, and the White House. It was collectively decided by these groups that they would reinstall the Shah, who Mossadegh had sidelined in the interest of trying to democratize Iran, and replace Mossadegh with General Fazlollah Zahedi in the prime minister position.
    General Zahedi was known as a strongman, having been dismissed by Mossadegh from his position as minister of the interior after he “ordered the massacre” of protestors.¹⁸ Zahedi also had a dark past, having been exiled by the British during WWII as a war profiteer and as a close friend of Nazi agents. While Steven Kinzer quotes British intelligence official “Monty” Woodhouse for the proposition that Zahedi “was an ironic choice, for during World War II he had been regarded as a German agent,”¹⁹ this was not ironic at all.
    Indeed, as evidenced in a CIA memo contained in the 2017 released documents, Zahedi’s having been a Nazi collaborator was seen as an asset to the Americans. As the memo, detailing US assets in Iran, explains, “Associated with the Nazi efforts in Iran during World War II, he has long been firmly anti-Soviet. A pro-Western orientation is reflected in the education of his son in the U.S. and the activity of his son in the Point IV [Truman’s Cold War technical assistance plan to developing countries] in Iran….” The memo goes on to say that the CIA’s contacts in Iran believed Zahedi “to be the only military man on the scene who would stage a coup and follow it through with forcefulness.”²⁰
    This view, that being Nazi and resolutely anti-Soviet/anti-Communist go hand-in-hand, thus making a Nazi a potentially good partner for the United States, was then, and in some instances, continues to be, the prevailing view of US foreign policy leaders, particularly in the CIA. I remind readers here of Operation Paperclip, a plan instituted just after WWII pursuant to which
    more than 1,600 Germans were secretly recruited to develop armaments “at a feverish and paranoid pace that came to define the Cold War.”
    Although some of these men had been Nazi Party members, SS officers and war criminals, they were valued as vital to American national security. Thus it was O.K., American government officials reasoned, to ignore these scientists’ roles in developing biological and chemical weapons, in designing the V-2 rockets that shattered London and Antwerp and in the countless deaths of concentration camp inmates who fell victim to medical experiments at Dachau and Ravensbrück.²¹
    In Japan, meanwhile, the United States quickly moved to restore fascist-era leaders to power to ensure that Japan would not turn to socialism, and so that it would be a reliable ally in suppressing anticolonial movements in Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The chief leader the United States selected to secure its interests in Japan and the Pacific was Nobusuke Kishi, also known as the “Shōwa (Emperor) era monster/devil”—the war criminal, famous for his brutality, who oversaw the use of coerced Korean and Chinese labor in Japan’s Manchurian munitions factories.²² The United States exonerated Kishi for his WWII-era war crimes, and he went on to serve two terms as Japan’s prime minister in the 1950s, becoming widely known as “America’