09/30/2007: Readers of this blog will understand that I am hardly shy about my heritage: I’m quite proud that my dad’s side of the family is from Iran. My dad was born near the Iran-Iraq border, and was raised in Tehran. We are ethnically Kurdish, and–like most Kurds–my dad and I are unashamed of our love for the United States. My dad is a naturalized citizen who eschews “dual citizenship”. His words: “When you become an American citizen, you are a F***ING AMERICAN!!!” I couldn’t agree more.
I would also suggest that most Iranians have no axe to grind with Americans, and in fact most would like to have the freedoms that Americans enjoy. On the other hand, they aren’t too keen on having another revolution.
A couple weeks ago, I visited my old church, and had lunch with some of the folks afterwards. When I told them I was a proud supporter of Ron Paul’s candidacy, one of the women–a die-hard Republican–challenged me as if I supported Nazi Germany. I told her that–while I would have supported the war in Iraq at the time (and in fact did)–I eschew the neocon agenda of imposing democracy on every living creature. When asked for examples, I pointed out the shameless drumbeat for war in Iran even though Iran is hardly a threat to American national security.
She then remarked, “Did you know that most Iranians want us to invade Iran and overthrow their government???”
Like hell they do!
Here are some quick facts that anyone can understand:
(1) Most Iranians HATE their government and want nothing to do with their Islammunist regime.
(2) Most Iranians want better relations with the United States, as good relations in the past (during the Shah’s regime) made for better prosperity in spite of the Shah’s many faults.
(3) Most Iranians want their country to have nuclear weapons: it is a matter of national sovereignty and they see it as a legitimate defense need, given that Russia, India, and Pakistan–nuclear powers all–are a stone throw away from them.
(4) While Iranians hate their government and wish for better relations with the United States, they are not in any rush to jump headfirst into another revolution even if Americans would back them.
Why the apparent contradictions?
Two times in the last century, the United States has used her CIA to undermine legitimate governments in Iran. In 1953, the Eisenhower Administration teamed up with the British to unseat Mohammed Mossadegh, a democratically-elected President who was quite pro-West, because he desired to nationalize much of the oil industry, which threatened some American and British companies. That is how the Shah came into power.
In 1979, President Carter used the CIA to undermine the Shah and install the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini–who was in exile in France at the time–into power. Khomeini had promised more democracy, women’s rights, and individual freedoms, but when he took power he immediately imposed an Orwellian-style Islammunist totalitarian regime. Intellectuals fled the country; military leaders were executed; entrepreneurs fled for Europe and America.
This, in turn, laid the ground for the Iran-Iraq war, a war–stoked at least in part by the United States–during which the Khomeini regime wasted a million Iranian lives in this fight.
In a nutshell, Iranians understand what happened the last time they had a revolution that Americans fomented: they got what they have today, and they were handed a decade-long war that cost an additional million lives.
In light of those facts, one can understand why Iranians are not exactly high on fighting another revolution, and why they are skeptical of an American President who pledges to stand with them, as much as they hate their own government.