January 20, 2009
Iran is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its historic Islamic revolution after three decades of siege warfare by the western powers. To understand why relations between Tehran and the West are so bitter, we must understand their historical context.
Iran’s jagged relations with the West began during World War II. In 1941, the British Empire and Soviet Union jointly invaded and occupied the independent kingdom of Persia, as it was then known. This oil-motivated aggression was every bit as criminal as the German-Soviet occupation of Poland in 1939, but has been blanked out of western history texts.
The Allies deposed Iran’s ruler, Reza Shah, and installed his weak, pliant son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, on the throne as the latest puppet ruler in the British Empire.
But in 1951, a highly popular Iranian democratic leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, became prime minister and promptly nationalized Iran’s British-owned oil industry, ordering its profits be used to lift Iran from poverty rather than enriching Britain. The Shah and his entourage of western advisors fled.
Two years later, US and British intelligence mounted a coup that overthrew Mossadegh, ending Iran’s first democratic government. The Shah was restored to the Peacock Throne. Iran’s oil wealth returned to British and, now, US control. Washington and London proclaimed they had won an important victory against `Communism.’
Washington and London set about turning Shah Pahlavi into the `gendarme of the Gulf’ to protect their oil interests. The Shah quickly blossomed into a megalomaniac, styling himself the `Shah of Shahs,’ and `Imperial Light of the Aryans’ (Iranians are an ancient Indo-European people), comparing himself to the ancient Persian emperors, Darius and Xerxes.