Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"No consensus on Iran," World Report, June 23, 2009.

[Here is a text for Tuesday's broadcast. A longer version is coming soon. -jlt]

Naomi Klein doesn't say much about Iran in her book Shock Doctrine. But what she does say is worth repeating.

After World War II, the Western powers accepted the idea that “market economies needed to guarantee enough basic dignity that disillusioned citizens would not go looking once again for a more apealing ideology, whether fascism or Communism” (62-63). In a similar spirit, economic nationalists in the developing world articulated the position that poverty could be eliminated only if they adopted an “inward-oriented” or nationalistic (some today would say “protectionist”) industrializing strategy instead of relying on the export to Europe and North America of natural resources and the profits from them.

  "Election fraud in Iran is no different than what happens in liberal states during elections. The struggle over the election results in Iran is internal and is unconnected to its strategic aspirations, including its nuclear program."
Meir Dagan
Head of Mossad

Pursuing policies such as “import substitution” and “supply management” these “developmentalist economists” advocated the nationalization of oil, mineral and other key industries. They invested public money in infrastructure and local businesses, manufactured their own “cars and washing machines,” used tariffs to keep out foreign competition, and restricted foreign ownership.

American and European corporations saw their products blocked at the borders. Their workers demanded higher wages and owners feared nationalization of their enterprizes. That meant their companies would be purchased by governments, and operated by locals. Natural resources and the profits from them would stay in-country. And it was working.

This was during the height of Senator Joseph Macarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts in the United States. So it was an easy step to portray leaders like Argentina's Peron, Guatamala's Arbenz, and the Congo's Lamumba as evil reds.

Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was one of these. His crime was that he nationalized the Iranian oil industry which had been under British control through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), (later known as British Petroleum or BP). He was removed from power on August 19, 1953 in a coup supported and funded by the British and American governments. Reactionary members of the clergy dissatisfied with his secular government may have been part of the mix as well.

Klein also writes a few sentences about Iran's 1979 revolution which brought the ayatollahs to power.
“the US-backed shah was overthrown by a coalition of leftists and Islamists. While the stories of hostages and ayatollahs made the news, the economic side of the program was also raising alarms in Washington. The Islamic regime, which had not yet transitioned to full-blown authoritarianism, nationalized the banking sector and then brought in a land redistrubution program. It also imposed controls on imports and exports, a reversal of the shah's free-trade policies.”

Even if we were not to view the events of the last few weeks against this background, part of what is so difficult about the Iranian elections of June 2009 is that they are multi-faceted. There is, of course, the question of of whether or not the results are legitimate. There is the probability that both the American and British governments have been trying replace the Iranian regime using Azeris in the northern part of the country and Balochis along the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan possibly going as far as to bomb mosques. Then thereis the authoritarian crackdown on the press and the demonstrators.

As if all this weren't enough, the Iranian nuclear program and the threat posed by continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, not only to Israel but to stability of the Eurasian continent which is home to about 75 per cent of the world's people, most of the world's physical wealth, and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources—the threat, whatever the intentions of this particular country's particular government, the threat to all that is real.
Finally, there is Obama. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a senior advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently asked Reuters, “What is the new administration actually offering, that George Bush didn't?” This echos a perspective on the left in the US that Obama is following Bush's policies but with different rhetoric.

It's not possible in 12 minutes to go detail the essential complexities of these different facets of the issue. So I will cut directly to some comments on the nuclear issue and then wrap up with a few highlights that have not received the mind-numbing repetition from the mainstream. To summarize, I would say that there is no consensus about the issues associated with the Iranian elections and no basis for the usual good-guys-versus-the-bad-guys dualism propagated in our media.

Iran's nuclear program

Two weeks ago, I pointed out that that in my experience stories that deal with the Iranian elections have little to say about the Iranian nuclear program and stories about the nuclear program say little if anything at all about the nuclear program.

The most common mainstream line is that Mousavi offers some chance that Iran can be persuaded to abandon its nuclear program.

Yossi Alpher concludes that “any Iranian government will pursue the country's nuclear program, if only as a bargaining card (Mousavi, after all, inaugurated that project some 20 years ago)” when he was Prime Minister. (Alpher bitterlemons international Edition 23 Volume 7 - June 18, 2009)

As far as I can tell, there is no Iranian anti-nuclear movement and all four presidential candidates support their country's nuclear program.

Meanwhile, the West is witnessing a significant rebirth of the disarmament movement, this time with big time support in the form of a new group called Global Zero.

In an article for the American Center for Defense Information's newsletter, the Defense Monitor, the new group argues that now is the time to begin eliminating nuclear weapons.

The group includes nine former heads of state; eight former foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, Britain and India; six former national security advisors from the United States, India and Pakistan; and 19 former top military commanders from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, India and Pakistan.

They write:
“With a clear, realistic and pragmatic appreciation of the challenges of achieving our goal, Global Zero is developing a step-by-step plan for getting to zero.
"This will not happen overnight nor unilaterally. Getting to global zero will require the reduction of all nations' arsenals over many years. Because American and Russian stockpiles account for 96 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, these two countries should begin with deep reductions to their arsenals, while beginning a dialogue with the other nuclear weapons states. Clearly, multilateral negotiations for global zero with China, France, India, Britain, Pakistan and Israel must deal effectively with concrete national and regional security concerns. Progress on this agenda will be accelerated if the pressing issues of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and getting North Korea to relinquish its nuclear arsenal are solved. A commitment by nuclear powers to begin serious negotiations for global zero would strengthen the case against any non-nuclear nation that strives to acquire nuclear weapons." (The moment for eliminating nuclear weapons is now, Defense Monitor, vol 38, April-June 2009, p 5)

About Iran, they say simply, "Progress on this agenda will be accelerated if the pressing issues of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and getting North Korea to relinquish its nuclear arsenal are solved."

Asia Times's Bhadrakumar suggests that “paradoxically, negotiating with Ahmadinejad might prove easier for the West, as he has a genuine constituency.”

Francesco Sisci, the Asia Editor of La Stampa adds some detail to this view: "China,” he says, “has a further political calculus. If Ahmadinejad, already domestically weak, were to emerge from elections that everybody knows he lost and to come to the fore to speak about Iran's nuclear program, he may be very vulnerable and thus willing to accommodate foreign requests. Conversely, if someone else, perhaps Mousavi, surfaces out of the ongoing demonstrations, he will have strong popular support and thus might be unwilling to make concessions on something considered a matter of national security and pride: Iran's nuclear program" (China makes a choice in Iran, Asia Times, June 25, 2009).

Bhadrakumar's analysis is based on two unlikely sources. The first is the leaked testimony to Israel's Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense by Mossad head, Meir Dagan:
"Election fraud in Iran is no different than what happens in liberal states during elections. The struggle over the election results in Iran is internal and is unconnected to its strategic aspirations, including its nuclear program."

The second is prominent Iranian-born US neocon and advocate of regime change in Iran, Amir Tahiri, who is quoted at length. For example,
"So-called 'Iran experts' did not realize that Mousavi was a balloon that a section of the Iranian middle class inflated to show its anger not only at Ahmadinejad but also at the entire Khomeinist regime. Otherwise, there is nothing in Mousavi's record ... to make him more attractive than Ahmadinejad."

Bhadrakumar concludes that
"At the end of it all, the international community can only heave a sigh of relief that while this complex and extremely confusing political drama unfolded, George W Bush was no more in the White House in Washington. United States President Barack Obama could grasp the subtleties of the situation and adopted a well-thought-out, measured policy and broadly stuck to it despite apparent pressure from conservatives."

Listeners wondering how Canada is involved in US-led black ops in Iran will find some clues in Dawn Paley's contribution to the Dominion Blogs.

She cites a cryptic June 19 press release by Ontario based Psiphon Inc.
"The company is employing dedicated 'psi-operators' - staff whose job it is to propagate Psiphon nodes and engage with the Iranian community both inside and outside Iran - working 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"The psi-operators are using social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as well as emails [sic] lists and forums, to propagate connection information to Psiphon's 'Right2know' nodes, which contain customized content sourced from BBC BBC Persian, Radio Farda, YouTube and other websites and services banned by Iranian authorities."
Psiphon Inc., is a recent spinoff from Citizen Lab, which is itself a branch of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.
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