Not Iran: Big Lies and Double Standards

by Ed Kinane

Boys on a class outing visiting the Shah’s palace in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Ed Kinane

Bush and Company deny that their interest in Iran, like that in Iraq, is all about its vast oil reserves. No, they would have us believe they might attack Iran because that nation is part of the "axis of evil" - because Iran is a "terrorist state" and a "nuclear threat."

Such constantly repeated accusations are part of a grotesque double standard, and an exercise in the Big Lie. Who is really on any axis of evil? Who is really a terrorist state, a nuclear threat?

Not Iran.


Iran: on the Axis of Evil?
In the last two centuries has Iran - or Persia as it was once called - invaded anyone? In that time the US has invaded or subverted all sorts of countries near and far.*

In the 1950s did Iran topple the Eisenhower government? No, it was the Eisenhower government, using CIA operatives based in the US embassy in Tehran, that toppled Iran's populist and democratically-elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh.

Why the coup? Because Mossadegh insisted that Western corporations pay more than nominal fees for extracting Iranian crude.

The US then imposed its puppet, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (backed by the SAVAK, his savage secret police), on that country.

In 1979 a broad swath of Iranians rose up and dethroned the Shah. When the Shah fled to the US, Iran sought his return to answer criminal charges. The US refused. Iranian students then took over the US Embassy.

If the US had been willing to extradite, it's likely there would have been no crisis - with the embassy and its personnel held hostage for 444 days. (For the rarely heard Iranian side of the story, see Massoumeh Ebtekar, Takeover in Tehran, Talonbooks, 2000.)

In 1980-88 Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. That war led to hundreds of thousands of casualties on each side. The United States helped arm and finance Saddam, even winking at his use of chemical weapons against Iran.

These days Shi'a Iran is often conflated with the Taliban or with Al Qaeda. Yet when Iran was famously declared to be on the axis of evil, it had been informally working with the US in Afghanistan to defeat Al Qaeda, a Sunni movement. (Without getting into the complexities of Islam's Shi'a/Sunni split, the point here is that in this context Shi'as and Sunnis are anything but allies.)


Iran: a Terrorist State?

Terror: the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.
- US State Department

Here in the West, Iran is repeatedly maligned as a "terrorist" state.

These days, with no substantiation, Bush claims that Iran provides the Iraqi terrorists/insurgents with high tech weaponry, thereby "destabilizing" Iraq. But it's the US - not Iran - that has invaded and occupied Iraq and plunged that nation into chaos. So far from being destabilized by Iran, Iraq's current government, being Shi'a, has close affinities with Iran.

Regarding Iran and Iraq, it is the US that is the intruder and outlaw. US military, violating international law, abduct Iranian diplomats in Iraq. US special forces penetrate Iran's interior, violating its sovereignty. (Imagine Iranian commandos skulking around the Syracuse plant of major war contractor Lockheed Martin!) Equally provocative, the US supports the secessionist MEK guerillas in their destabilizing incursions into Iran.

Now, Iran does support Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon - parties that the US government also maligns as "terrorist." If politicos and commentators ever defined that overused buzzword, it would quickly be seen that "terrorist" - simply given the scale of their violence - applies far more to the US and to Israel than to Hamas and Hezbollah. It isn't Hamas and Hezbollah who impose apartheid. Nor did they invade Lebanon or occupy Palestine.**


Iran: a Nuclear Threat?
This is where the imperial double standard really comes into its own. That Iran is a nuclear threat is the Big Lie - repeated so often that many come to believe it. Few credible intelligence sources believe Iran, even if it had the will to do so (which is questionable), is within several years of acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Let's say someday Iran manages to develop a nuclear weapon. If somehow that weapon could be launched at the US or Israel, wouldn't those countries massively retaliate? Surely Iran knows that, given their vast nuclear arsenals and their powerful air forces, engaging the US and Israel in a nuclear exchange would be insane.

It's the US - not Iran - that has contaminated Iraqi air, water and soil with toxic and radioactive depleted uranium. It's Israel - not Iran - that for years has maintained a secret nuclear arsenal. It's Israel - not Iran - that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It's the US - not Iran - that keeps developing its nuclear arsenal despite having signed the NPT. It's the US and Israel - not Iran - who refuse to allow their nuclear facilities to be inspected.

It's the United States which has used the atomic bomb, not once, but twice…each time deliberately targeting civilians. It's the United States that for over sixty years has blackmailed the planet with nuclear arms, occasionally threatening to use the Nuke and keeping alive its first strike option.

It's the US - not Iran - that has more nuclear warheads and more nuclear submarines than all other nuclear nations combined. But it's Iran - not the United States - that is flanked by nuclear powers: Israel, Russia, India, Pakistan - each tolerated or even supported by the US…not to mention US bases in neighboring Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and among nearby Central Asian and Persian Gulf nations.

This past March our Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation [see box] met with Iranian Vice President S. Rahim Mashaee. Mashaee told us that if the world gives up nuclear power, Iran would do so first.

No wonder.

While it occupies the White House, Bush Inc. is sure to keep maligning Iran. Doing so keeps the pot boiling. Given Bush's quagmires and corruptions, a boiling pot is usefully distracting. Further: expropriated oil reserves and the contracts of war provide mega-profit.

Many think US policy in the Middle East is a shambles. It is…but its amoral architects get to smirk all the way to the bank.

* For instance: Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam...(not to mention many Native American nations).

** See also Franklin Lamb, "Why is Hezbollah on the Terrorism List?" at (April 6).

Recently Ed visited Iran. Reach him at