Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Shah of Iran and the Birth of Terrorists

In part two of Linda McQuaig's Youtube series Exposing Canada's Role in Afghanistan, based in part on her book Holding the Bully's Coat (ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9), she touches on a subject that is very important. Religious extremism and the birth of terrorism

However, we have to remember that not all terrorists are Muslims, and in fact I would argue that they are probably in the minority. Some of the most horrendous assaults on humanity have taken place in the name of Christianity and other faiths, but that's a topic for another time.

McQuaig instead takes us back to the creation of the Islamic world's distrust and dislike of the West, in particular the United States; beginning with their involvement in the overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammed Massadegh, and in the planting of the unpopular Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, simply referred to usually as the Shah of Iran.

In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stated:

"In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."

This story was of personal interest to me because one of my British uncles worked for the Shah. I remember bragging about this when I was growing up, and in some convoluted way felt connected to the Iranian royal family. Unfortunately my own family was as poor as church mice, and the holes in my shoes did not exactly suggest any royal lineage.

But what's interesting about McQuaig's assertion, is that because of the Shah's crack down on public dissent, the only place where those opposed to his tyrannical regime could meet, was in the mosques. This meant that any protest movements were directed by religion, making it easier for fundamentalists to hijack the movement and give it a holy purpose.

I wanted to mention something else here though and correct a misconception of the author's. Several times in her book she refers to Michael Ignatieff as a neoconservative. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At it's core, neoconservatism is based on three principles: deception, religious fervour and perpetual war. But those are not the goals, only the path to achieving the goals. A neo-cons real aim is to dismantle a country's social safety net, eliminate government controls and pave the way for an unfettered free market system. Their message is don't blink.

Mr. Ignatieff's goals are the exact opposite.

I believe that Linda McQuaig may be an NDP supporter, if she supports any political party at all, and that's great. If we really want to bring this country forward, we need all progressive thinkers, and she is definitely that.

And yes, Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, but for very different reasons. While Stephen Harper simply stated that he didn't know much about it but just that we should be where the Americans are; Ignatieff spent time in Kurdistan after the genocide and knew first hand the evils of Saddam Hussein. But again, that will be covered in a separate post.

Part two of this series once again questions the legality of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and our role in it. And it also sets the stage for the emergence of terrorism as we now identify it.

Near the end she brings up Lt.-Gen. Thomas Metz, but I'm doing a separate post on that since he is directly involved with Rick Hillier and our change in direction for the war.


  1. When it comes to accurately rating the Pahlavi regime's place in Iran's history there remains a great void. The main reason is that there are too many opinions about what actually happened in this period and not enough facts. While there were obvious legitimate criticisms of the Shah's government, many have been blown far out of proportion for many reasons, including misplaced anger or for propaganda from Iran's current regime.

    As for former Prime Minister Mossadegh, many don't point out the fact the he was a member of the Qajar family, which was the former ruling family of Iran (which was overthrown by the Pahlavi's not long before 1953). While Mossadegh may have been a nationalist we must question whether his motives against the Shah's government were at all personal. On a more positive note, Mossadegh does deserve praise for his role in ending the United Kingdom's monopoly of Iranian Oil Fields.

    It is wrong to connect the Muslim world's distrust of the West solely from the Coup in '53. There were plenty of other events which built up the conflict between the Muslim world and the West. This includes colonialism of the Middle East region leading up to the early 20th century and mroe recently the west's role after the Soviet Union withdrew it's long occupation of Afghanistan.

    Additionally, let's not forget the fact that Iran's Imperial Armed Forces in the 1970s (during the Shah's reign) were among the world's best trained. Furthermore, the Shah's government maintained a working relationship with Israel and many neighboring Muslim countries. The Shah was effectively a "police" of the Middle East, maintaining order (this is in reference too Theodore Roosevelt's credit in policing the Western Hemishphere).

    Despite their differences, Mossadegh and the Shah may have had one thing in common: they were both hurt by the West. It is well documented that during the Carter Administration, his National Security Council drafted what was called the "Islamic Green Belt Theory". Their position was that setting up Islamic governments in the middle east would be the best way of containing the spread of communism (vis-a-vis the USSR).

    You may disagree with what I have written. Now, I welcome your opinions even if they challenge my own. All I ask is that you be able to back up your claims with facts. Furthermore, I encourage you to confirm what I have written. These points are based reliable sources and not opinions, nostalgia, anger, or propaganda.

  2. Thank you for that. I don't disagree with you and it is obviously a subject that requires further reading.

    The late actor Dennis Weaver, who became an activist, once suggested that there would be no peace in the Middle East until the West gave up their addiction to oil. I agree with that statement.

    However, throughout history, it's been more that oil. From diamonds in South Africa to furs in Canada. Colonization, initially became about protecting business interests and moved to taking over a country's administration.

    Haiti is an excellent example of what happens when the West interferes. Aid workers are finding that many of the children suffered from under nourishment long before the quake, and the only reason the death count is so high is because people were forced to live in such poverty without adequate housing.

    I'm just trying to make sense of these wars with their double standards. I'll definitely research this further with your references.

    Thank you.