Noilly Prattle: Persian Odyssey: Part XII – a little light historical context

Monday, May 14, 2012

Persian Odyssey: Part XII – a little light historical context

Open desert and oil fields and not much to do but think. How did I come to be here on a semi crippled bike with a civil war postponed and waiting to resume (for me at least) when I returned to Esfahan? Why is the US government, today, hellbent (verbally at least) on kicking Iran's butt? The eternal post-9/11 question: “Why don't they love us?”

Khomeini left (white beard);
Castro right (right)
What do oil and bananas have in common? Big business and big profit—British Petroleum, Exxon Mobile, United Fruit. The flag follows the money. There seems to be a connection with the US's preoccupation with Cuba and its obsession with Iran. It's more than likely a matter of face and pride as well as profits. Both countries, in the persons of Fidel Castro and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, humiliated the US and drove it out of their countries. And, in between, there was the added insult of the Vietnam War.

We can trace the linear progression of the US involvement with Iran from before the Iranian Revolution to its obsession with Iran's supposed nuclear weapons development program. I believe this latter is simply setting up a straw man, as with Iraq's supposed WMD, as an excuse to manipulate for regime change in Iran to a more pliant government that will let the US have its way as it did when I was working in Esfahan under the Shah in 1978. We could see a repeat performance of the Iraq debacle, but on a much larger and messier scale if the MICC hawks (military-industrial-congressional complex) have their way.

Mossadegh under house arrest
Briefly, then, Mohammad Mossadegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953. While he was Prime Minister he instituted several social reforms like unemployment compensation, health benefits, etc. He is, however, most famous (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for nationalizing the Iranian oil industry from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later known as British Petroleum (BP of recent Gulf of Mexico oil-spill memory). It's not hard to guess what happened next. Mossadegh was ousted in a coup d'etat engineered by Britain's MI5 with the participation of the US's CIA on August 19, 1953. He was arrested, tried and imprisoned for three years and died under house arrest in 1967.

The rest as they say is history. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was restored to the Peacock Throne and the new Prime Minister, Fazlollah Zahedi's government formed a consortium with foreign oil companies giving “the U.S. and Great Britain the lion's share of Iran's oil wealth.” With the Cold War in the background, the US regained business and military influence in the Shah's Iran. Iran's oil resources were exploited and strong ties between the US and Iranian military forces were forged. Anyone opposed to this arrangement would simply disappear into the dungeons of SAVAK (the Shah's secret police) or go into exile and plot the demise of the Shah.

the Shah (l.) meeting with Alfred Atherton, William Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, President Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1978

Military hardware was sold and training programs were set up and, voila!, here I was training soldiers as part of the military sales package. My English language training company out of Chicago was sub-contracted to Bell Helicopter International, which was, as I mentioned earlier, training Iranian helicopter pilots in Esfahan. Until the excrement began to hit the fan around mid-1978, soon to culminate in the downfall of the Shah and the American Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran which the US has never forgotten or forgiven the Islamic Republic of Iran for, and which brings me back on the road to Shiraz and a short pit stop before going on to Persepolis.

[All photos in this post courtesy of Wikipedia, which is also responsible for filling in the gaps in my historical memory.]

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

and…'The Peacock Throne' was stolen from India. There ya go…the world is a mess, isn't it? Everyone wants what isn't theirs, it seems.

Noilly Prattle said...

You can say that again. But, then again, when isn't the world "a mess"? Interesting, I didn't know that about the throne. But then again the British museum if full of "stolen" goods from Egypt and Greece, etc.