OPINION: Perilous juncture
NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - What the United States never talks about is its own shady conduct in the past like the McFarlane affair or the Iran- Contra scandal where it secretly sold arms to Iran which was officially under an arms embargo to finance yet another covert war in Nicaragua.
The ‘monopoly on truth’ to justify actions has historically been on the side of Western powers in the Middle Eastern theatre. The rampant spin-doctoring of facts and fiction to postulate convenient narratives, has enabled the primary Western power i.e. the United States, to unleash unilateral wars, subterfuge and unholy alliances to wreck wars, in order to strengthen its own energy, commercial and geostrategic objectives.
The manufactured lie that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) had led to a preiemptive Anglo-US military invasion in 2003. This is now a forgotten footnote in history today. It was the WMD bogey that led to the subsequent chaos and genesis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The occasionally contrived outrage against ‘terrorism’ is expressed and affixed as per convenience and strategic necessity of the United States. The chasm of ‘facts’ as believed amongst locals in the Middle East are in stark contrast to what is claimed by Washington DC and its protectorate regimes in the region.
These are undemocratic, regressive and with a terrible record of human rights. It is America’s bête noire, Iran, that now faces demonisation and and attack on its sovereign dignity, most particularly after the US killed its military commander, Major-General Qassem Soleimani. The American version of the Iranian crisis starts with the Ayatollah Khomeini- led Revolution in 1979 and the subsequent US embassy hostage crisis entailing 52 American for 444 days, as was alluded to by Donald Trump when he threatened to target 52 Iranian sites “representing 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago”.
Beyond the brazen threat to target ‘cultural sites’, President Trump’s take was conveniently short in spirit and chronological history. What riles the sentiment on Iranian streets is the complete omission of facts pertaining to the role played by the US in the unforgiven and unforgotten coup d’état orchestrated by the CIA, against the government of the popular Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh.
While the United States did finally own up to its infamous manipulations in the Mosaddegh coup after decades, the fact that the man that the US had deposed was a committed secular-democrat (a rare commodity in the region) speaks volumes of the USA’s record of intervention that has always preferred beholden-clients such as the countries in the Arab Sheikhdoms. The American support for Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s entailing the dual-use technology, training, armaments and intelligence is remembered only in Iran, which lost the majority of approximately a million killed in the decade long war.
Iranians also remember how the US overlooked the use of chemical weapons against the Iranians by Saddam. But the US was determined to destroy its own initial ally Iraq, as the chessboard of priorities changed in the 1990s and even as the subsequent winds of Pan- Islamic extremisml pointed to the pernicious role of Saudi Arabia. These were ignored. In an incredulous move, the defining moment of global terror in the 9/11 attack that had entailed perpetrators from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and Lebanon, it was Iran that was oddly named in the ‘Axis of Evil’ by George Bush.
Iran had nothing to do with 9/11 or with the Al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden, who was bitterly opposed to the Shiite regime in Iran. While Iran had undoubtedly supported Hezbollah in Lebanon and the fellow- Shia Bashir-al-Assad regime in Syria, the dominant instinct has been sectarian and regional, as opposed to the anti-US focus. Nearly all terror strikes across the globe can be traced in terms of inspiration, financial or ideological support to the Wahhabism that was exported recklessly by the US ally, Saudi Arabia. It was the Iranian state and its mercurial leader of its Quds Force, General Soleimani, who were principally responsible for destroying the edifice of the most virulent and violent terror organisation in the world, ~ the Isis.
Yet on the eve of Soleimani’s killing, President Trump tweeted untruthfully and unconvincingly ~ ‘They attacked us and we hit back’. In reality, the United States killed the man who destroyed the most dangerous terror infrastructure in the world. What the United States never talks about is its own shady conduct in the past like the McFarlane affair or the Iran-Contra scandal where it secretly sold arms to Iran which was officially under an arms embargo to finance yet another covert war in Nicaragua. More pertinently the US does not talk about reaching out to the same General Soleimani when it sought actionable intelligence against the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Ironically, the Taliban, which is actually responsible for killing over 2000 American troops is holding ‘peace talks’, as sanctioned by Trump.
Israel was perhaps the only country that supported Iran in its war with Iraq in the 80s with military equipment and trainers. Israel also destroyed the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor and offered invaluable counterweight to the West-supported Iraq. Today realpolitik has destroyed and buried that relationship, but unlike almost all intolerant Arab regimes, the Iranian state remains the most democratic, liberal and progressive state in the relative sense. Even today the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) reserves a seat for its Jewish minority and has formally stated that Iranian Jews are to be treated equally and will be free to practise their religion ~ an unimaginable status in the region with at least 11 functional synagogues.
Political postures notwithstanding, the status of societal development, gender empowerment and democratic processes in Iran are way ahead of the US allies in the region. However the rote narrative of ‘the world’s biggest state sponsor of terror’ is, unconvincingly and consistently insisted, on Iran. The real historical facts of the region are more complex than the simplistic arguments professed by President Trump. Everyone has blood on their hands and the preponderance of the same is definitely on the hands of the US allies, but it is still Iran that gets vilified more than it deserves as the ‘monopoly of truth’ is firmly in Washington DC.
(The writer IS Lt Gen PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry)