Let Iranians Fix Iran 

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Barack Obama has said he does not wish to interfere in the Iranian election. Others, such John “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain, have no such compunction. But any statement at all—even a statement about not making a statement—is a mistake. The record of the U.S. government in Iran over the last half-century is so tainted that it would be better for all officials to just keep quiet.

The results of the presidential election certainly suggest a fix. But that is for the Iranians to work out.

For the last few years, the U.S. “military option” has been prominently “on the table” when it comes to Iran. The U.S. government’s closest ally in the Middle East, Israel—especially under the new hard-line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu—clearly would like to see Iran attacked for having the nerve to develop nuclear technology. U.S. intelligence says Iran gave up a weapons program long ago—before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president—but Israel apparently won’t tolerate an Iran even with only a civilian nuclearpower industry. Apparently the thought of another country’s challenging Israel’s 40-year nuclear-weapons monopoly in the Middle East—and thus being able to deter aggressive military action—is intolerable. (Ahmadinejad, incidentally, has no military authority under Iranian law.)

The U.S. government, then, can hardly be an unbiased observer of Iran’s political process. Besides, it is well known that U.S. governments have routinely meddled in elections throughout the world, both overtly and otherwise.

Most of all, the U.S. government needs to keep silent because of 1953. That was the year the CIA drove an elected, secular Iranian prime minister from office in order to restore to power the brutal monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. For the next quarter century, the shah ruled with an iron fist—secret police, torture, the works. “Enlightened” Americans used to say that he was “dragging his people kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”

It was a sweet deal for everyone—except average Americans and Iranians. In 1979 the Iranians had had enough and, led by the charismatic ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini, they again drove the shah from power— this time for good—in the Islamic revolution that has reigned in Iran ever since. The U.S. government’s crimes against Iran were not forgotten, as the U.S. embassy was seized and the personnel held hostage for 444 days.

In Cairo, Obama acknowledged that history. Good. However, acknowledgement is not enough. Deeds must match regrets—if that’s what he feels—about 1953. The U.S. government must forswear intervention, take the military option off the table—and mean it.

Sheldon Richman
Richmond, Va.

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