This is a bit of a media-event for SlimK1nd. I approached Professor Noam Chomsky, a renowned dissident from the USA and asked him if we could reprint an article of his. Professor Chomsky graciously agreed.
I’ve stated elsewhere that I became politically “aware” from roughly the age of 10. Ronald Reagan came to power in 1981 and the world radically changed. I was then enrolled in a very progressive, activist elementary school. The faculty/school launched various protests for the remaining two years I was there: protests against nuclear weapons and the reheating of the Cold War and protests against the stationing of midrange nuclear weapons in our own country.
It made a lasting impression.
Back then we had one telvision-set. It was a color-TV. My parents would sit on the couch while me and my kid brother were usually seated on the floor. We’d skoot over to the TV and then using your hand and index-finger you’d be able to press a button (which made a loud “click” noise) and switch the channel. You’d then hear the rest of the family say “yes” or “nooooo” and press on to the next channel. I guess we had maybe 5-6 channels then. Two Dutch, two Belgian and BBC.
We ate at the dinner-table, all together – NO TV – but as soon as dinner was finished we’d clear the table and dive towards the television. After dinner we’d usually watch the news together. “News” back then was maybe 20 minutes of a person reading items from sheets of paper in front of him, accompagnied by clips that lasted maybe a minute or so.
Some new war had started. Iraq and Iran were at war. I didn’t know either of those countries.
Why were they at war?
The videoclips left something to be desired. We had people standing around some huge cannon firing to the right of the screen (underneath it said: Iraq) and then cut to another shot of people standing around a similar cannnon firing towards the left side of the screen (underneath it said: Iran). I couldn’t see any difference between the two. The people looked the same. They used the exact same weapons. Even their uniforms looked similar. The war between Iraq and Iran lasted for 8 full years. Millions died. Millions more were wounded. For 8 long years our “news” showed those clips and images. One side firing from a large cannon in 1 direction and the other side shooting back from a similar cannon.
War reporting at its absolute best.
As I moved to highschool things got a bit better. I was able to read the newspaper (after my parents had finished with it) and from that it became clear that Iran was sort of being helped by the Soviet Union, while the US, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia helped Iraq. Iran was involved with “the Russians” and Iran was an “enemy” of the United States.
It wasn’t really clear why and how Iran had become an “enemy”.
Nobody really cared about this war between Iraq and Iran. The wars in Central America were the wars to care about. Those were “important” wars. Various punk-bands were quite “political” and they’d feature Sandinista-imagery on the covers of their albums. At school their music became quite popular. You could find out all kinds of things about those wars. Students talked about it constantly.
Reagan and his cronies had created a terrorist army called the Contras. The Contras were armed and trained by the CIA. The Contras basically killed and raped their way through Nicaragua. They were “Freedom Fighters” who were going to liberate the people they were killing and raping from the Commnist Sandinistas (the elected government of Nicaragua, after ousting a brutal dictator after decades of murderous rule). The Contras were after regime-change.
The surrounding countries were ruled by various Military Juntas, supplied and supported by the US, who disappeared, tortured, raped and killed their own populations. All were clients of the Pentagon buying as much weaponry as they could get their hands on while their populations starved. A very small westernized elite did very well.
Central America was a mess. It was just all horrible. And the US – clearly – was largely to blame.
But not that war between Iraq and Iran. As horrible as US foreign policy was under Reagan… the US was “right” in supporting Iraq and Iran was their “enemy”.
This all changed in 1987-1988.
The US Congress put limits on financing and equipping the Contras. The CIA therefore went to completely underground financing through other means. They hauled massive amounts of cocaine for the Contras to the US. The proceeds from the cocaine helped finance the war. Drug smuggling can only get you so far. In need of funds, the US also did a secret deal with Iran, trading arms for hostages. The proceeds of those weapons were used to finance the Contras. It became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. The “affair” came to light from the mid-1980s onwards.
Wasn’t Iran their “enemy”?
With the war between Iraq and Iran going on for 7 years the US had moved their Navy War ships into the Gulf. The ships were there (allegedly) to protect oil-shipping lanes. A huge portion of the world’s oil travelled through the Gulf and those huge oil-tankers needed to be protected from Iran. If and why Iran was attacking oil-freighters was not entirely clear.
In 1988, the US fired a missile at an Iranian passenger plane, shooting it out of the sky, killing all the civillians on board. The US claimed they thought it was a fighter-jet or bomber of some kind.
It meant the end of the war. Iran got the message loud and clear. They were able to fight against Iraq (and its allies) for close to a decade, but they were simply not able to take on the US. With US Navy Ships in the Gulf, acting aggresively, Iran decided to begin negotiations with Iraq and end the hostilities.
Nobody was ever charged, no reparations were ever paid, for shooting down the plane filled with innocent civilians.
Around that same time I finished high-school, moved out and went to University. My girlfriend moved in with me. We were poor. We studied and worked and studied and worked and studied and worked. We ate at my grandparent’s a lot. They lived down the block. We borrowed their vacuumcleaner, we did our laundry there and we used their phone… a lot. My interest in “news” gave way to other interests, such as making sure we paid our bills and had money left to buy food and such.
I got my 1st job straight out of University. I became a programmer for a market-research agency, dealing with syntax, questionnaires, data collection, data processing, socio-demographics and statistics. I loved it. The tech-dept consisted of maybe 5-6 guys, all 10 years older than me.
As the US (and the world) attacked Iraq in 1991 I remember being confused.
Wasn’t Iraq their ally?
It got me interested in “news” again.
I never quite figured out that war between Iraq and Iran and it bothered me.
One of my tech-colleagues was a French guy who read Le Monde Diplomatique. My French is non-existent but he’d pick interesting articles and give me a synopsis of them. As our careers took off, so did the Internet. Television had expanded obviously. The 5-6 channels from the 1980s had now become 30 channels – all riddled with advertising and commericals. “News” – however – hadn’t changed much. There was more of it, but the format had remained the same. A guy, or a woman, sitting there reading things with videoclips. Newspapers had stayed pretty much the same as well. Articles are short and certain topics were featured only infrequently, if at all.
Internet changed all that.
All of a sudden I was able to read news from all over the world in English – a language I do understand. My French co-worker introduced me to Z Magazine, an independent – then called “alternative” – newsorganization from the USA. The “magazine” had a website, called ZNet, which was much more than just an online magazine. It was a collection of thinkers, radicals, objective journalists and… scholars.
Z Magazine offered a more honest, more decent and more rational worldview.
After work I’d comb through ZNet for hours, looking up authors. If I got particularly interested in one author or journalist, I’d mail the English languaged book-store and they’d “special order” the book for me. They’d ship the books to our house with a bill attached and we’d sign and send in the bill in an envelop.
I recall coming home maybe 1993, 1994?
There was a thick cardboard package on the table. I had recently ordered a new book from this new author I had discovered on ZNet. The book was called: Deterring Democracy. It was a thick book, 400+ pages. On the cover it showed the B2 Stealth Bomber. It looked menacing.
The author of the book was an American Linguistics Professor called Noam Chomsky.
My study of modern history begins with Z Magazine and the authors I found there.
Professor Chomsky writes about an abundance of topics. I would classify his work as factual modern history with a focus on US foreign- and domestic policy and global geopolitical issues, such as media, international law and human rights. His books are very well written and heavily footnoted. At the end of each book, you can go through pages and pages of footnotes where other books and authors are listed. Simply look the author and book up online, read more about it and if you like it?
“Special order” it.
We spent the 1990s mostly reading books. There was simply too much to choose from. I got 5 new titles out of Deterring Democracy. Those 5 new titles would lead to more titles. And those titles would then lead to even more titles. We’d sit on the couch and pick a country or conflict we knew nothing about and then go online, find some leading expert on the topic and “special order” the books. Especially my wife became an avid reader. She’d be holding a book in her hands while waiting in line at the supermarket, she’d be reading as we walked to the bus, waited for the bus and then in the bus as we went to wherever.
Through ZNet and Professor Chomsky’s work I got interested again in that war, between Iraq and Iran. It had been roughly 15 years and I still knew next to nothing about the entire conflict. I found numerous specialists on the topic and read a book by Dilip Hiro, called The Longest War, on that horrendous conflict.
I am not going to recount the entire history here. I will walk you through the highlights and supply links, for further reading.
In 1953, the US and the UK organized a coup in Iran.
They ousted Iran’s Nationalist Prime Minister and re-installed the Shah (a monarch, like a King) to rule the country.
The Nationalist PM (Mossadeq) wanted to nationalize Iranian oil. The UK and US wanted access to that oil and control what happens with it, hence the coup. What follows is just horror. The CIA organized, trained and equipped an organization called Savak. A secret police of sorts, just like you see in South/Central American dictarorships. Savak terrorized the population. Assassinations, disappearances and of course torture. From 1954 to 1978 Savak wrecked havoc on the people of Iran.
During that same period the US supplied Iran with an abundance of military hardware. Planes, tanks, ships, munitions and… nuclear technology. Yes. That’s right. Henry Kissinger felt that it was a great idea for Iran to “diversify” and not be completely reliant on oil. He also felt that it would be good if Iran became a nuclear power.
President Carter called the Shah, “an island of stability”, in 1978.
He was wrong.
A few months later, in 1978 the Iranian people rise up in a revolution. The revolution consisted of the entire population: leftists, human rights activists, journalist, lawyers and religious clerics. A famous Muslim cleric, an Ayatollah named Khomeini had been living in exile in Paris, creating protest cassette-tapes against the regime. He used to live in Iran, but was exiled by the Shah. He then fled to Iraq. Saddam Hussein offered the Shah to kill Khomeini. The Shah and his family were worried it might turn Khomeini into a martyr, better exile him again, so he ended up in Paris.
He was flown back to Iran and hailed as the country’s saviour and new leader.
The religious group quickly took over the revolution and turned Iran into a horrible theocracy.
The Shah fled and was allowed entry to the US. He was very sick, he was dying of cancer. Iran wanted him back in Iran to stand trial for decades of human rights abuses. The US refused. Iranian students then go ape and storm the US embassy in Tehran and take the staff hostage. The US then tried a “rescue” attempt (some scholars say it was another coup-attempt) which failed. It would take more than a year for the hostages to be released.
The CIA was closely cooperating and even coordinating with the torturers from Savak, from that same embassy.
The US never paid any reparations or so much as apologized, for the horrors unleashed on the Iranian people since the 1953 CIA coup.
As Ronald Reagan enters the US Presidential elections in 1980, his team cuts a deal with the Iranians. We will sell you spare-parts (for all that military hardware they bought from the US under the Shah) if you don’t release the hostages until President Carter is out of power. Iran liked that deal. The plane with the hostages left Iranian airspace, just as Reagan made his entry into the White House as the new President of the USA. Soon Iranian funds were released from frozen bank-accounts and military hardware was released to them via Israel. The proceeds of that deal, went to financing the Contras so they could continue killing and raping in Nicaragua.
“An era of national renewal”.
It really says that.
Like “Make America Great Again”.
Once the US has their hostages back they move quickly. They remove Saddam Hussein and Iraq from their terrorist-watch list. This means they can now provide support, logistics, weapons and intelligence to Iraq. They then “suggest” that it would not be an entirely bad idea if Iraq were to attack Iran and destroy the entire country. Iraq immediately invades Iran.
Throughout the war, Iraq would be helped by the US with intelligence, weaponry, strategy and international diplomatic support.
More than a million Iranians would perish during the war.
Slightly different from seeing two groups of people fire cannons at each other in the desert for 8 years, no?
From 1978 Iran has been under an “international embargo”. Iranian imports are restricted, there’s a lot of items Iran can simply not get. And Iranian exports are banned. They cannot sell Iranian products worldwide. Most countries don’t have any quarrel with Iran, mostly just the US, but when the US says jump? It’s better to just ask “How high”? Many US allies therefore coorperate with treating Iran as an international pariah. The embargo has been tightened numerous times, disallowing more and more items for export and import.
The US “fears” Iran. It’s a dangerous, religious country. Iran became the “enemy” when they kicked out their US-installed dictator and took US embassy staff hostage. Iran is “evil”. Iran supports, even commits terrorism. Iran is a threat to Israel. Iran is “escalating” things in Iraq (another US foreign policy success-story).
Iran is the “enemy”.
And has been since 1978.
To make matters worse: Iran has been developing nuclear technology since the early 1990s. Iran has expanded its knowledge base and its research facilities from the original “gift” of Nuclear Technology they received under Nixon/Kissinger and later Carter/Brezinksi.
This makes Iran even more “dangerous”.
Negotiations were ongoing with Iran on their nuclear program for several years.
The US wants the program stopped.
Iran would like to see the sanctions (the embargo) lifted.
A deal was reached in Vienna in 2015.
The below is an article from Professor Chomsky. It was originally published in August 2015 on TomDispatch.com. "The Iranian Threat": Who is the gravest danger to world . You will be able to find more of Professor Chomsky's writings on Iran and other topics online.
The deal from Vienna passed and after decades the embargo has finally been loosed somewhat under President Obama as part of this deal.
The Iran Nuclear Deal essentially means that Iran will not enrich uranium in exchange for portions of the embargo being lifted. Top European firms have been keen to do business with Iran for ages. My own country, the Netherlands included. In May 2016, our Minister of the Economy visited the Dutch embassy in Tehran with representatives from some 45 major Dutch companies. It was called a “trade-mission“.
The Dutch government and big business are taking a major risk here. A recent EU-association treaty with Ukraine was shot down in a referendum with impressive numbers. Why did people shoot down this treaty? A recent study showed that “corruption” and “shady business-deals” were the main reasons given by “NO” voters. The Dutch government has since been bungling, ignoring the referendum’s outcome for months, trying to please Brussels.
Trade-missions and eventually -deals with Iran, without consulting the Dutch population seem incredibly ill-advised. If the population fears crony-capitalism and votes down deals with oligarchs in the Ukraine? They’re not going to like any trade-deals with with regressive theocratic Ayatollahs and the Iranian elites.
I personally would not favor any trade-deal with Iran.
The country is a horrible theocracy that violates rights on a massive scale.
The Netherlands should not conduct business there. I know we already do business with plenty of countries that violate rights. I think we should not, or at least not add more rights violators to that list.
I also feel Iran has a right to enrich Uranium. A lot of countries enrich Uranium. Our own country, the Netherlands, enriches Uranium. (It’s where Pakistan got their nuclear bomb – I will detail that story some other time).
There’s plenty to like for Dutch industry and business. Iran’s infrastructure needs major overhaul and the Iranian rich have plenty to spend on conspicuous luxury-goods. Iran is rich in oil, gas and other minerals. A mining-boom is expected, provided… the embargo is indeed further loosened.
President-Elect Donald Trump has stated the nuclear deal must be rescinded on numerous occassions.