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Posted December 12, 2007
Interesting US insider's account, which at least does not call for war
Kenneth Pollack is a member of the US state¿s National Security Council and a long-time CIA member. In his previous book, published in October 2002, he called for the invasion of Iraq. He now admits that the attack was ¿based on a case for war that turned out to be considerably weaker than was believed at the time.¿ Iraq ¿was 'mistakenly' believed to be close to acquiring nuclear weapons.¿ In this fascinating book, he explores Iran¿s relations with first Britain and then the USA. He exposes British imperialism¿s profiteering in Iran: in 1950, Iran got only £57 million of the £275 million oil profits. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company paid its workers 50 cents a day, refused to observe Iran¿s labour laws, bribed officials and illegally interfered in Iran¿s elections. In 1950, the Attlee government planned to invade Iran with 70,000 troops, the CIA and MI6 covertly operated against the elected Mossadeq government, and together the CIA and MI6 organised the 1953 coup. After the coup, US oil firms moved into Iran, making AIOC worse off than if it had agreed to Iran¿s 1950 offer of a 50/50 split. Pollack writes, ¿After the coup ¿ Iranians increasingly believed that the United States was a malevolent power that had replaced the British as the insidious force controlling Iran¿s destiny and preventing it from achieving its rightful stature and prosperity. As usual, that myth is not right, but it is also not entirely wrong either. There is a kernel of truth in it, and therein lies the rub: the United States did help to overthrow Mossadeq, and it was culpable in the establishment of the despotism of Mohammed Reza Shah that succeeded him.¿ So why call it a myth? Similarly, the CIA did organise SAVAK, the Shah¿s secret police, and the USA did give the Shah vast amounts of military aid. Pollack writes, ¿the Eisenhower administration tried hard to keep Iran at arm¿s length¿ yet in the next sentence notes how the CIA developed `a liaison relationship with SAVAK.¿ He notes the US state¿s `assistance to SAVAK, and other pernicious policies¿, yet eight lines later writes that there is `no evidence that the United States directly aided SAVAK ¿ or even provided general advice and assistance¿. He admits that the US state never did anything to stop SAVAK¿s mass systematic torture. He sums up, ¿Washington probably had too cozy a relationship with SAVAK and may have purposely ignored the stories of its terror and its tortures, but at most, the United States was an accomplice, not the inspiration.¿ Probably? May have? And 26 years of state terrorism and tortures are just `stories¿? And isn¿t an accomplice guilty of the crime? In September 1978, the day after the Shah¿s army, US-armed and US-trained, killed hundreds of people, President Carter called the Shah to express his support. This was part of ¿a coordinated campaign by the administration to demonstrate its support to the shah and convince him to deal more decisively with the crisis.¿ On 28 December 1978, the US urged the Shah to appoint a `firm military government¿. In January 1979, the US state tried ¿to convince the Iranian military to take over the country and snuff out the revolution, and to assist them in doing so.¿ This, Pollack writes, was `more fodder to feed the conspiracy theories¿. Not evidence, just `fodder¿. And he admits, ¿this central element of their paranoid fantasies ultimately turned out to be very real¿, so not paranoid fantasies at all then. In the Iraqi war of aggression against Iran, the US state backed everything that Saddam Hussein did, even his chemical warfare. Pollack writes, ¿it was not so much a conscious decision to condone Iraq¿s use of chemical weapons against Iran, although some officials did do precisely that, as much as it was a general lack of interest in whatever horrible things were befalling the Iranians.¿ Again, Pollack finds excuses for US state crimes, for who had sold Saddam Hussein the chemical weapons? Did the USA sell the weaponsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 20, 2006
I have personal interests in this topic and found this book tremendously helpful in understanding the past and present with regards to Iran. Puzzle, is a very good descriptor for this topic. Many Americans are not aware of the details provided here in this book. They provided me a clear picture and a better understanding. Both are needed and should be obtained by all Americans interested in getting past the Iran Conflicts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2006
Iran, Tormented Soul in Search of an Identity
Kenneth Pollack first gives his readers an excellent introduction to the remarkable history of Iran from the rise of the Persian Empire to the reign of the Pahlavis (pp. 3-100). Pollack shows clearly how nationalist and xenophobic Iran got wary of meddling foreigners, starting with the hated Russians and Brits, in its domestic affairs (pp. 4, 41). Many Iranians have angry psychological scars, believing that foreigners are the source of all their problems for partially understandable reasons (pp. 26, 71, 89, 99, 125, 128, 155-56, 161, 173-74, 242, 297, 389). Pollack focuses the bulk of his book on a balanced account of the troubled American-Iranian relations in the last 50+ years. The U.S. started building its ¿satanic¿ reputation after the CIA played a key role in helping the Brits get rid of Iran¿s popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953 (pp. 57-67). Mosaddeq¿s ¿crime¿ was the ¿illegal¿ nationalization of the Iranian oil industry under control of the rapacious Brits (pp. 52-56). The U.S. did not improve its reputation among most Iranians by supporting the dictatorial Shah who largely mismanaged the modernization of Iran until his overthrow in 1979 (pp. xxv, 72-140). Pollack convincingly demonstrates that the Truman Administration and its successors usually did not exercise enough pressure on the Shah to democratize and liberalize Iran when they had the opportunity to do it (pp. 49, 76-77, 81, 89-90, 104, 121-24, 136-40). The Shah, who was ironically considered sold out to the West, became less and less amenable to the ¿omniscient¿ U.S., beginning in the mid-1960s (pp. 39, 50, 84, 94, 99-100, 107, 120-27, 158, 173). After the revolution of 1979, the U.S. mostly supported Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war and funded different destabilization operations to contain and try to overthrow the Islamic Republic (pp. 206-16, 259-65, 273-76, 386). The U.S. apologized in 2000 for some past misdeeds in an unsuccessful attempt to improve its relations with Teheran under the presidency of the moderate but ultimately ineffective Mohammad Kathami, who was under relentless pressure from the hard-liners (pp. xxv, 303-42). Pollack blames with equal conviction the Iranians for the awful relations existing between both countries. Iran has built its reputation of international pariah due to the illegal seizure of the U.S. embassy staff in 1979, its lack of democratic credentials, its support of terrorism around the world, its opposition to the Middle East peace process, and its pursuit of (nuclear) WMDs (pp. xxi, 141-80, 182, 198-201, 237-40, 248, 256-59, 266-67, 277, 345, 379-82). Pollack also explains to its readers that many Iranians have a poor understanding of the U.S. (pp. 50, 180, 309). Pollack does not hesitate to show repeatedly that greed has not stopped the international community, including the U.S. at times, from doing business with Iran in the last 25+ years (pp. 164-65, 262-65, 271-72, 286-89). Iran is trying without much success to emulate China by crushing internal dissent and favoring economic development (pp. xxiv, 250, 369-73, 390-91). The U.S. will be of no help in this endeavor as long as Iran stubbornly clings to its pursuit of acquiring nuclear military expertise on top of other objectionable actions (pp. 273, 312, 324, 351). Pollack tries to crack the Iranian enigma by rightly ruling out an invasion of Iran due to its size, population, and topography (pp. xxiii, 383-86). Pollack ultimately pleads for a three-pronged strategy that rests on an unconvincing mix of carrots and sticks (pp. 375-424). The U.S.-led international community seems to believe that Iran will ¿submit¿ to the ¿diktats¿ of foreigners in the nuclear crisis without undermining again the ¿legitimacy¿ of the hard-liners (pp. xxv-xxvi, 157, 251, 352, 365, 395-400). Hard-liners have not forgotten the humiliation of 1988 (pp. 227-33). Nuclear WMDs would shield Iran from further ¿humiliating¿ foreignWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.