Argo's Iranophobia and the Destabilization of Iran for Oil Profits and Regional Domination
At the start of the film, Argo, a narrator tries to recount decades of 20th Century Iranian history in the span of a few sentences, all of which are historically accurate until she says that the majority of Iran in the 1970’s was opposed to the Shah’s “westernization” of Iran and welcomed the return to a more “traditional” government under Ayatollah Khomeini. From all reports, it appears that the people of Iran had little say in the matter before Khomeini was foisted upon them by the USA and Britain. After Khomeini’s acquisition of absolute control over the Iranian people, mobs were often either paid or forced to show absolute allegiance, love, and respect for their leader, or else.
It’s ridiculous that Argo, which disturbingly won an Academy Award for Best Film in 2013, tries to represent to the American public the majority opinion of 1979 Iranians in any particular way simply based on some anti-Shah Iranian media reports from the late 1970’s and similar news video footage of Iranians parading in the streets chanting for the ousting of the Shah and praising Khomeini.
US history is finally clear on the fact that the CIA paid mercenary Iranians to cause riots and protest the leadership of Iran in 1953 when the USA subversively overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the monarchy of the Shah in order to promote the USA’s own oil interests in the region. Of course, the US administration in 1953 internally justified its own shameful actions as promoting democracy in Iran, whatever that means.
Though Argo seems arrogantly confident in doing so, it is simply not possible to ascertain the public opinion of most Iranians during the so-called Islamic Revolution in 1979 because of the widespread chaos, fear, violence, and oppression which marks that time period in Iran’s history, and because Iran was such a culturally and economically diverse society at that time with dozens of different ethnic groups, a few major disparate political ideologies, and at least 3 main strata of socio-economic status. And despite the ostentatious wealth of the Shah especially in comparison to the borderline poverty of the majority of Iranians then and now, Iran’s general economy, government, and infrastructure was enjoying relatively widespread historical success under his rule. Further, in consideration of the fact that the rule of the Shah was far more populist than that of Khomeini and his progeny who continue to rule over the country and squash numerous efforts at popular uprisings seeking basic human rights, it seems a far-fetched notion for Argo to insinuate that the majority of Iranians sincerely supported Khomeini during the years of the so-called Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Such a subtle but severely problematic premise at the start of Argo sets up the innocent viewer to believe that the terrorist, militant, and sociopathic Iranians depicted in that film (and in so many other Hollywood films from 300 to Not Without My Daughter) who are holding the Americans hostage during the 444-day Hostage Crisis and supporting the ensuing bloody dictatorship of Ayatollah Khomeini are somehow representative of the majority of people in Iran. When dealing with the current hot-button political and military climate that hovers over Iran nowadays, where Iran is consistently being targeted by the USA and some of its allies as the next Middle Eastern nation to invade, and where American public opinion supporting the invasion of Iran is necessary prior to that impending next war for oil, it is particularly irresponsible for the film-makers of Argo to so publicly foster even more negative opinions about Iranians and Iran, which has already been deemed the centerspoke of the “Axis of Evil” by former President George W. Bush.
In fact, rather than being a revolution at all, the so-called Islamic Revolution in Iran seems to have been just another multinational and successful effort at gagging the Iranian people, reducing the importance of an ancient civilization’s profoundly influential culture to the singularity of its oil resources, and then robbing Iran’s historical landscape of that very resource for the military and economic benefit of its takers — and we all know who that is. Thus, far more than a coup d’etat, the so-called Islamic Revolution of Iran seems really to have amounted to the Iranian Rape.
Of course, this century-long plunder of Iran’s oil resources, of the precious natural environment, and of the Iranian people and their culture themselves could not have been and could not continue to be so successfully executed without the assistance of Iranian political, military, and so-called theological insiders who — similar to African tribal leaders that helped capture and sell their own countrymen in exchange for blood money from foreign slave-traders during the African holocaust of the 1700’s — sell out their own People for a price. While Iran’s leaders have historically benefited in money and power from the enormously profitable oil-trade with outside foreign superpowers like the USA, Britain, Russia, France, and China, the majority of the people of Iran have become more poor and disenfranchised under their self-serving leadership.
Democracy is something that Iranians have seen functioning at the national level only for two years in their entire political history. Iran democratically elected populist leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1951 who immediately ousted foreign oil corporations from Iran in order to empower the Iranians themselves to take full control and retain full financial benefit over their own oil resources. His primary interest was to uplift the poor majority in Iran rather than to further the wealth divide between the haves and the have-nots. Mr. Mosaddegh initiated a panoply of social welfare programs meant to bring social democracy to Iran. Yet he refused to bend to foreign powers and their corporate interests in Iran. Thus, through the efforts of the British secret service and the CIA, these same foreign powers removed Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed a puppet monarchy under Shah (“King”) Reza Pahlavi in Iran. The Shah clearly understood that his role was to facilitate foreign corporate interests in Iran rather than oppose them. He complied and benefited personally and financially, yet he further divided the minority wealthy from the majority poor in Iran.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, to be sure. When the Shah became too greedy, the USA insisted that he abdicate and leave Iran as is documented by this January 9, 1979 ABC News broadcast. As noted in this historical ABC News Broadcast, in early January 1979 the USA knew that if the Shah gave up the throne in Iran, either a powerful, conservative, anti-American regime under Khomeini or some resurgent populist Iranian government would take power in Iran; and yet at that time, the USA urged the Shah to give up his rule of Iran. As discussed above, America had already done its best to successfully remove from power in 1953 the populist Iranian government of Mossadegh, and it is now historically clear that a democratically elected populist leader opposing foreign oil interests was not going to be an option again for Iran once the Shah was deposed in 1979 — leaving only one other option: Khomeini.
Then, as seen in this New York Times timeline of front page articles from that time period, in mid-January of 1979 the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne and sought refuge abroad. As seen in the same New York Times timeline above, in early February of 1979 Khomeini lands in Iran aboard an Air France flight from Paris, and he immediately establishes the Islamic Republic of Iran whose policies endure to this day and which have been the most powerful internal influence on Iranian and Middle Eastern politics and foreign relations since that time. Clearly, US interests have been the dominant foreign influence on the region all the while.
While the USA has acknowledged its role in the overthrow of Mosaddegh and the establishment of the Shah’s rule in Iran, as noted in President Obama’s 2009 speech to that effect, it is very concerning that the USA has denied the notion of its involvement in the installation of Khomeini as Iran’s ruler in 1979. Though from the ABC News and New York Times articles linked above, it is clear that the USA knew that Khomeini had a strong chance of taking control of Iran if the Shah were deposed, that the USA was intensely opposed to another iteration of a populist and democratically elected administration similar to that of Mossadegh regaining power in Iran (as the USA had toppled such a government 26 years earlier in Iran), and yet knowing all this the USA nonetheless insisted that the Shah give up his power over Iran. Then two weeks later, on February 1, 1979 Khomeini arrives in Iran aboard an Air France plane with strong US and British support after being exiled for 14 years, mainly in Iraq: a country against which Khomeini’s regime immediately began to fight a horrible war for 8 years from 1980 to 1988, further bringing chaos and destabilization to the Middle East’s two main petroleum powers. There has been much suspicion and speculation by Iranians and academic scholars about the actual reasons for the US’s initial support of Khomeini as well as for Khomeini’s true motivations in bringing so much destruction and destabilization to Iran and Iraq; yet such opinions are generally cast aside as conspiracy theories.
The USA claims that Khomeini took control of Iran because he was welcomed by the Iranian people who were disgusted with the Shah’s greedy and oppressive monarchy. Stating a contrary opinion that is espoused by some, noted scholar, researcher, and author William Engdahl writes in his 1992 book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, that the USA conspired with Britain to install Khomeini as the leader of Iran in order to purposefully bring chaos to Iran, specifically to destabilize the oil industry, economy, and politics of Iran which had become more powerful, modern, and stable under the leadership of the Shah. Engdahl seems to argue that by destabilizing Iran, the USA and Britain along with their Big Oil companies capitalized first on the exponential rise in the price of oil and later increased their own oil holdings in the various balkanized regions of the Middle East such as Afghanistan and Iraq that they knew would become destabilized like falling dominoes by the chaos the USA and Britain had created in Iran.
As written by New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis on March 12, 1979, a month after Khomeini arrived in Iran with US and European support to take over as the country’s dictator, “None of this [i.e., Khomeini’s severe human rights violations that he was immediately and institutionally committing against the Iranian people] should have been any great surprise. Ayatollah Khomeini had put his views on the record with unusual forthrightness. He said he wanted Iran to be governed strictly by the laws of Islam, and he meant it.”
It is undisputed that the world’s major oil companies have made trillions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil reserves since the destabilization of Iran in the late 1970’s. Have a look at the skyrocketing of British Petroleum’s stock prices since the late 1970’s, for example. Or similarly, look at the same chart for Exxon Mobile since the 1970’s. Destabilization of the main oil-producing nations in the Persian Gulf, primarily Iran and Iraq, has been excellent for business for the main British and American oil companies that rely on the petroleum reserves there. It is also clear that the USA has become a major political force in the Middle East, counting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Israel as its main allies and holding increasing military and political power and influence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.
The question that remains to be answered is how the USA acquired this power in Iran’s destiny. And further, what are the USA’s plans with Iran? As history tells us, that may be a question of whether the current leadership of Iran plays ball with Big Oil or not. Insofar as Iran’s leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad, is still in power, perhaps he’s not as big a thorn in the side of the USA as is touted. Similarly perhaps Khomeini retained his power over Iran for 10 years — despite early reports (such as this outstanding March 12, 1979 New York Times article) and later historical accounts of his regime committing genocide against Iranians, war crimes, human rights abuses, torture, sanctioned rapes and beatings, kidnapping of children, and other atrocities — because ultimately he served the bottom line of American and European oil interests in Iran. Khomeini maintained absolute power over Iranians for a decade until he died of natural causes at age 86 in 1989, and his form of government and political principles have been retained by the ensuing leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran to this very day, 34 years after Khomeini came into power and was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” for 1979.
There is and has been for centuries so much ignorance, racism, hatred, colonial designs, and military aggression directed towards Iran by mainstream American and European peoples. Given this fact, far more disheartening than Argo‘s utter failure to research and report the real and vital history surrounding the Iranian Hostage Crisis that lasted from November 1979 to January 1981 (nevermind the film’s other script-flipped historical inaccuracies), as an Iranian-American attorney deeply interested in upholding democracy, justice, ethics, and the law I am saddened that our US government, media, and schools and colleges have done such an egregiously poor job of bringing the facts to life, clarifying the American role and intentions in the Persian Gulf, and setting aright the damage our nation has caused the good people of Iran.
As discussed in this article, the USA has helped monarchs and dictators like Shah Pahlavi (and his father, Reza Shah) and Ayatollah Khomeini take and keep control of the nation while wresting power away from a democratically elected, populist, and humanitarian leader like Mosaddegh. Even in the last 4 years, aside from a few eloquent but empty words at timely press conferences by President Obama, the USA has hurtfully turned its back on the courageous protestors in Iran’s Green Revolution who fomented widespread public outcry and stalwart demonstrations to demand fair elections, democracy, and justice in Iran rather than continued oppression, human rights abuses, violence, and corruption all at the expense of the Iranian people.
Indeed, Iranians are people, not terrorists. I am Iranian. We love to eat, dance, we appreciate art and music, and we love to make friends. We celebrate the first day of Spring as our New Year! We love to have picnics, play games in the park, and have barbeques. We even love to bake cookies! We are comedians, teachers, artists, musicians, business owners, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, laborers, farmers, and so on who have contributed so much to the world. We are regular people, just like the rest of humanity. We love, we feel pain, we laugh, and we get bored. We drive cheap cars and we drive expensive cars, we dress shabby and we dress chic. We cannot be stereotyped in any certain way, regardless of how much the media puts us into a tiny and ugly little black box. That’s not us, and it never was. There have been despotic leaders in Iran who have given us a bad international reputation, and I’ve discussed this here in this article.
As shouted in the streets by the millions of brave Iranians who have protested the current oppressive regime in Iran, what Iran needs and wants is democracy — the right to choose its own leaders. And Iran needs education, health care, environmental protections, labor rights, women’s rights, family rights, and other progressive and humanitarian essential rights. So you see, the USA is not so different from Iran because we need those very same rights here!
The only real political difference between the USA and Iran is that Iran has had a string of particularly terrible leaders, and those terrible leaders have remained in power because they have served a purpose for the king-making nations of the world. It’s time to rethink this model. As they say, regime change starts at home. For this reason, I vote for an American leadership that puts human rights over the quest for oil, corporate interests, and global domination.
John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman
Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of Childhood
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States