Iran IV: America’s Dictator


Hey folks. We’re getting on with it, but research and length got away from me again, and it’ll be another episode before we’re edging up towards Revolution.

For now, though, we’ve got the reign of the Shah. Here’s our boy at his coronation in ’67 with the incredibly British commentary that Pathé apparently monopolized:

The Shah’s greatest eventual antagonist was already pricking the king in the early 1960s, though. We usually see the Ayatollah Khomeini like this:

But he was a seminary student, once:

And, as soon as he grew the beard out, always bore a striking, striking resemblance to Sean Connery:

But while we’re more-or-less used to Khomeini’s glowering brows and (I’m just noticing now) sensual pout, his more liberal counterparts in the fluid Shi’ism of mid-1960s Iran have pretty much never been on our radar screens.

Here we’ve got Mahmud Talaqani, or Taleghani, depending on who’s doing the spelling, the also-Ayatollah who founded the Liberation Movement of Iran along with Mehdi Barzagan, one of Mossadegh’s proteges.

Talaqani was into liberationist, socialist Islam way before it was cool. Talaqani hammered out the early road with the politician Barzagan, but the guy that (Ervand Abrahamian and Michael Axworthy tell me) was the real ideologue of the Iranian Islamic left and a major part of the ’79 Revolution itself was Ali Shariati Mazinani:

We’ll have a whole host of other figures to get to next time, but for now, listen to the show, share it, tell your friends about it.

And last but never least, references.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations. New Press, 2013.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1974-1975 — Iran. 1 January 1975: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/001/1975/en/

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1974-1975 — Iran. 1 June 1976: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/001/1975/en/

Axworthy, Michael. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Baraheni, Reza. “Terror in Iran.” The New York Review of Books, 28 October 1976.

Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.

The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Weidenfeld1963.

Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.

Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Rothschild, Emily. “The Boom in the Death Business.” The New York Review of Books, 2 October, 1975.

Steel, Ronald. “Impossible Dreams.”  The New York Review of Books, 12 September 1968.

 

Audio Acknowledgements

Doctor Turtle. “Grow Grotesque.”

“Eisenhower Speaks about the Murder of JFK.” YouTube.

“Iran Military Assistance Advisory Group, 1962.” The Big Picture. YouTube.

John Foster Dulles Interview“, Longines Chronoscope, 1951thefilmarchive.org. (YouTube).

Persian Folk Music.” Traditional Music Channel. YouTube.

Premier Ali Amini of Iran in His Office.” CriticalPast. YouTube.

President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.” CBS. YouTube.

President John F. Kennedy’s ‘Peace Speech’ at American University.” C-SPAN. YouTube.

The Shah of Iran and President Kennedy.” YouTube.

 

Conversation with Robert Morris of the More Freedom Foundation


I’ve been telling you folks about and pitching you on Rob Morris, who runs the More Freedom Foundation and its YouTube channel, for a couple of weeks now.

Rob’s a principled conservative. Like with actual principles, for a change

Well, we got together yesterday and sat down to talk about his new essay and video series, Everybody’s Lying About Islam, along with Iran and Mexico and a whole host of other stuff.

This turned out real well, and we’re thinking about doing some more collaborations real soon.

And for everybody who didn’t hear this live or get to participate in the pretty active livechat, if you’ve got any questions or comments you want to let us know about or have us address, leave them here or on the SFD Facebook page or on the video on YouTube itself.

Enjoy, guys.

 

SFD Short—Liberal Arts


This is the fourth short, adapted from something I wrote way back in the day when I was still fighting the good fight.

Back when I was in the Peace Corps. I told you guys I was in the Peace Corps, right? Peace Corps.

I told you folks last week that I’d be having a talk with Robert Morris of the More Freedom Foundation on YouTube Live this week. Well, turns out my internet here in Guadalajara absolutely will not support the Live part of that. So we’re still gonna chat, but we’re gonna record ourselves and I’ll slap the whole thing together afterwards.

In case you missed it last time:

Robert runs a YouTube channel called the More Freedom Foundation and his latest project is a series of short videos called Everybody’s Lying About Islam and it is dynamite. Try the first one on here, and watch the rest of them right afterwards:

Keep one eyeball on SFD’s or my social media and I’ll let you know where and how it’ll be.

SFD Short—Forgetfulness


This is the third short and the first entirely new one, although I’ll get it typed up and post it like any other blog and then link it here sometime this week.

The big news this time though is that sometime next week I’ll be having a long conversation with a guy named Robert Morris on YouTube Live that’ll become, soon after, a talky episode of SFD.

Robert runs a YouTube channel called the More Freedom Foundation and his latest project is a series of short videos called Everybody’s Lying About Islam and it is dynamite. Try the first one on here, and watch the rest of them right afterwards:

Keep one eyeball on SFD’s or my social media and I’ll let you know when the live thing’s going on. Either way, it’ll end up as a podcast and you’ll be able to get it however you normally do.

SFD Short—Looking at History from the Outside


The next one of these, I think, or the next two (who knows!) will be totally new, but this one, like the last one, does what it says.

New intro on this one, but I might shorten it up, given that the eps are shorter.

Let me know how you guys are liking (or hating) these, and I’ll dial them in accordingly. Also might have an interesting collaboration coming up, so keep your eyes and ears open for that one.

Cheers.

SFD Short—Historical Optimism


Hey folks, does what it says on the box.

It looks like I might end up in law school this fall, so there’s a fair chance the show is winding down. But I’m going to fill up the interim with episodes, and to that end, I’ll be taking some of the stuff I’ve written (that fits) over the last four years and making short little shows with it. We’ll see how it goes, and if it’s not your bag, just stick to the main eps.

Cheers, guys.

Iran III: Guns of August


Well, we finally made it. I thought I’d blow from the ancient Persian Empire straight through to the plot of Persepolis in one episode, but just like with Guatemala, things got away from me. This time, though, we’re getting to the coup in August 1953 and looking forward to its consequences as they echo down through Iranian history to the present.


Alright, let’s take a look at some faces. Here we’ve got the Eisenhower crew dead-set on destroying Iranian democracy:

John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower.

Allen Dulles, JF’s younger brother and head of the CIA.

And Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, who’d been head of the CIA under Truman and became Undersecretary of State under Eisenhower. He used his later role in the coup against Arbenz in Guatemala to get a well-paid spot on the board of directors of the United Fruit Company.

And here’s Kermit Roosevelt, the American spy in Tehran who put the whole thing together, and without whom the whole thing would have fallen apart after the first failed attempt.

“Beetle” Smith was a slimeball and the Dulles brothers, however much they might have been ostensibly protecting “democracy” against “communism,” seem to have slipped pretty quickly into the ‘power corrupts’ camp.

Roosevelt, though, I don’t know. He was definitely the lynchpin of the coup, but he wasn’t an ideologue, and the excitement he recorded as he passed into Iran was understandable. He wasn’t the cynical CIA man here to put down a fledgling democracy, but the newest patriot of the Roosevelt family, convinced that he was fighting the good fight. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but whereas in the aftermath of AJAX the Dulles brothers were already looking hungrily towards Guatemala, Kermit turned down the opportunity to run that operation and later went on record condemning pretty much every attempt the CIA made to replicate its ‘success’ in Iran.

And here’s some impartial British coverage of events:

Continue reading Iran III: Guns of August

Iran II: Nationalization

 

Here we are at Episode 7. Like I say in the cast, I thought we’d get farther down the road with this one, but podcasts are long and history’s longer, and we’ll have to wait until Episode 8 to get all the way to the coup. In the meanwhile, though, we’ve got the rise of Mohammad Mossadegh, struggles over nationalization, the battle between the Anglo Iranian and the National Iranian, and a trip to the World Court in the Hague.

Next time around, we’ll hit Operation AJAX and Kermit Roosevelt and all the rest, but for now sit tight and enjoy.


Some principal players now. Mossadegh himself’s up there at the top. His Time cover for Man of the Year is even less complimentary (and has a terrible pun to boot).

I couldn’t for the life of me find a bigger version, but it reads, “He oiled the wheels of chaos.” Har.

Continue reading Iran II: Nationalization

Iran I: Take Up the Burden

Hey everybody, we’re back from hiatus.

I spent the fall studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools and scrounging enough cash to stay alive, so the show kind of fell by the wayside. That’s over with now, though, and this next series is set to come out pretty regular.

We’re turning to Iran to look at the coup against Mohammad Mossadegh and all the ways that Operation AJAX have affected Iran and our relationship with it right through to the present day.

This first episode gets all of our key characters onto the main stage and the next one will bring us up through that night in July 1953. We heard about this coup and how it shaped Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers’ perspective on clandestine interventions way back in the first show and now we get to see it play out.

We’re diving way back in history to get the context for what happens in the fifties, so here are some maps for context.

This is pretty much every political entity that you would call or which included Persia for all of recorded history. Neat.

Here we’ve got something much more specific to our episode. These are losses of both territory and sovereignty Iran goes through during the 19th century, from the Treaty of Gulestan up through the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention.

And this is the Caucasus region we’ll be referring to a lot. You might not typically think of Russia as being part of the Middle East, but you’d be wrong. The reason Russia’s constantly meddling in Afghanistan and Syria in the present day is that a finger of Russian territory pushes down between the Black and Caspian seas to touch the little republics between it and Turkey and Iran. And at varying points in Russian Imperial history, to touch them directly. The borders on the map are again related to the treaties of Gulestan and Turkmenchay.

Now how about some characters.

The man in the center of that photograph is the Lord Curzon of Kedleston, later the Earl Curzon of Kedelston, Viceroy of India and later Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Cuzon was the face of British imperialism in its last great grasping gasp and he had his eyes on Iran before, during, and after the First World War.

Curzon, in some senses metaphorically and in other ones totally literally turned over the torch of British imperial ambitions over to Winston Churchill.

I don’t know that most of us have ever heard of a time when Churchill was young, but he comes onto the scene in Iran almost immediately after his military service in the Raj and South Africa.

By the time he’s First Lord of the Admiralty at the outset of WWI, he’ll be taking an interest in Iranian affairs.

And once he’s almost literally become too old to be alive, he’ll be Prime Minister for the second time and destroying Iranian democracy with American help in an effort to hold onto the last imperial jewel still in Her Majesty’s crown.

On the Iranian side, this early on, we’ve got the Qajar Shahs, exemplified in pretty much every way by this guy:

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar

And their throne was usurped (more or less rightfully), by this guy, the first Pahlavi Shah:

Reza Shah Pahlavi, formerly Reza Khan

Who will brutally modernize and organize Iran, in time to turn it over to his dilettante son:

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Who the UK and the US will vocally, economically, and finally clandestinely and militarily support, and who will work out for the Iranians about as well as Bashar al-Assad did for his people.

And as always:

 

The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations New Press, 2013.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.

Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.

Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Audio Acknowledgements

Doctor Turtle. “Thought Soup”

Metastaz. “The Prince of Persia”

More News Pictures from Iran. 1941. British Pathé. (YouTube).

Persian Folk Music. Traditional Music Channel. (YouTube).

 

 

Aftermath Part IV

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Hey guys.

Welcome to the fifth episode of Safe for Democracy, the podcast about the foreign policy disasters of the United States in the 20th century.

This is the fourth part of a series exploring the violent aftermath of the US-backed coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, which was itself the subject of the first show.

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Maybe some photos this time for context?

Sure.

Up at the top there is General Efraín Ríos Montt, found guilty of genocide, hanging out with Ronald Reagan, who once said that the Guatemalan government had gotten a “bad rap” from the liberal press.

Reagan went on to give the man tens of million dollars in arms.

egp

Here we’ve got what’s basically the letterhead of the EGP, the Ejercito Guerrillero de los Pobres, or the Guerrilla Army of the Poor. Their actual emblem is up at the top left, Che Guevara’s Korda Photograph in high relief with EGP down at the bottom.

It’s not easy to see from college campuses in the US, but actual revolutionaries also revered Ernesto. Especially appropriate since Che participated in the Agrarian Reform in the 1950s, and it was the US coup in 1954 that convinced him that the only way forward against imperial powers like the US was armed revolutionary action.

organizacion_del_pueblo_en_armas_emblem

This is the emblem of the Organización del Pueblo en Armas, or the Organization of the People in Arms. I’m no expert in Guatemalan culture, but if its mythology is anything like Mexico’s, the volcano is a deeply national and deeply indigenous symbol of power and strength.

urng

Continue reading Aftermath Part IV