Monday, January 30, 2006


Iran is the new black apparently. Here are some facts about Iran which might come in handy this year. I've written this mostly for my own benefit to be honest.

So, Iran is predominantly populated by Shiite Persians (not Arabs). Their Shia fundamentalist Islam is not the same as the Sunni Wahhabism of the Taliban or bin Laden. In fact, Wahhabi's believe that the Shia are not "proper" Muslims at all (the Taliban viciously oppressed Shiites in Afghanistan). The idea that bin Laden would form an alliance with Iranian fundamentalists is a bit like believing that Ian Paisley would form one with the Pope. Not hugely likely, in other words. The Iranian government does have strong connections to the Shiites in the new Iraqi government though (via). The Iranian government are also strongly linked to Hezbollah, a Shia group. The spiritual leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Fadlallah, has said that the September 11th attacks on the US were un-Islamic and "barbaric". Hezbollah does, however, support suicide bombings directed against Israel.

That Coup
In 1953, the Shah was reinstalled after the sort of successful conclusion of Operation Ajax. The operation involved the CIA, with British support, orchestrating a coup against the nationalist Prime Minister of Iran (who had nationalised the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company). This CIA article analyses the after effects of that operation.
TPAJAX got the CIA into the regime-change business for good—similar efforts would soon follow in Guatemala, Indonesia, and Cuba—but [] the Agency has had little success at that enterprise, while bringing itself and the United States more political ill will, and breeding more untoward results, than any other of its activities. Most of the CIA's acknowledged efforts of this sort have shown that Washington has been more interested in strongman rule in the Middle East and elsewhere than in encouraging democracy. The result is a credibility problem that accompanied American troops into Iraq and continues to plague them...
The question is, has anyone told President Bush?
They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms...
Perhaps, in the case of Iran, they hate the fact that the US government took away that very freedom and reappointed and supported a Western friendly government while disregarding the sovereignty of Iran. Bush can't be blamed for that, it happened in 1953. But it did happen. This led to the first use of the term blowback.

That Revolution
The regime of the Shah was highly corrupt and used brutal methods to maintain power. Nevertheless, the government continued to be supported by the West, particularly by the US, as it was thought to provide an effective barrier to Soviet entry into the strategically important Middle East region. Growing discontentment with the Shah created the conditions which led to the revolution and brought the Shiite Islamists to power. The United States government had assured the Shah that they would "back him to the hilt", but in the end they decided not to. The revolution, after the twists and turns common to many revolutions, brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979.

That Mad President
Today, President Ahmadinejad is in charge. Sort of. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is Comander in Chief of Iran's armed forces, including the revolutionary guard, and has the exclusive power to declare war. Last year, Khamenei issued a Fatwa against production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons (though I doubt that's very reassuring to most people). He is a staunch religious conservative and strongly opposed to reform. The Guardian Council further complicates the issue as does the Assembly of Experts. How this all fits together is demonstrated by this handy BBC graphic. Sort of.

Anyway, the point is that Ahmadinejad does not have the same powers as President Bush for example. Ahmadinejad cannot simply impose his will on foreign policy issues.

That Nuclear Issue
This is the big issue and, of course, the reason why Iran is the new black. The latest news is that there has been no progress in talks between the EU and the Iranians. There'll be much more on this in the coming months, no doubt.

And Finally
From that BBC report:
Many Western powers and also Israel distrust Iran, partly because it had kept its nuclear research secret for 18 years before it was revealed in 2002.
I wonder what Mordechai Vanunu would say to that?

Tags: ,

No comments: