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Open Letter to Senator Obama: Please Reconsider Iran

Iranian.com, Commentary, Bob Petrusak Posted: Jul 09, 2008


Dear Senator Obama:

With Israel rehearsing an attack on Iran and the Bush administration considering the alternative of a low-level diplomatic mission in Tehran, it is necessary to revisit your June 4th speech to the AIPAC convention in Washington. In that address, you denounced the Iraq War as a conflict which strengthened Iran and asserted that Iran has always constituted a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. You stated that Iran now constitutes the greatest challenge in the region. You even asserted that Iran is part of a tyranny of oil in which the high price of oil is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world because petro-dollars abet the killing of Israeli civilians and American soldiers. In so doing, you are taking an easy road to toughness on national security issues that still allows you to trumpet your opposition to a war that is now overwhelmingly unpopular. This road may follow the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson, Democratic Party candidates who talked peace only to lead our people deeper into war.

Your AIPAC speech represents a refusal to acknowledge the fundamental problem in American-Iranian relations. This is the fact that we are still dealing with the revolutionaries who overthrew the repressive Shah installed by the United States at the expense of an elected government. This nascent democracy led by Mohammed Mossadegh, struggled against a tyranny of oil very different from the one you constructed to inflame sentiment against Iran. Your so-called tyranny wields a high-priced weapon forged through the wasteful consumption of its victims. The tyranny faced by Mossadegh involved a British multi-national, the forerunner of todays British Petroleum, backed by every other major oil company on the planet. This tyranny sought to perpetuate a concession system originally granted by a corrupt, foreign-influenced monarchy, which denied Irans people a fair share of their most important resource. This tyranny would also include the British navy which helped enforce a world-wide boycott of Iranian oil, and our C.I.A. which orchestrated the violent military coup that overthrew Mossadegh in August, 1953.

Apologists for the coup unabashedly claimed that it saved an unstable Mossadegh government from a Soviet takeover. However, any alleged instability was the obvious result of a grossly unfair and patently illegal boycott of Irans largest export. Moreover, the Soviets were in no position to attempt a takeover of Iran a few months after Stalins death and in fact, Mossadeghs government was finding ways to survive the boycott. The coup thus stands as a very sordid regime change that crushed a secular Third World democracy which sought to reclaim national resources from a colonial arrangement. Similarly, the quarter-century from the 1953 coup to the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution saw U.S. support for the Shahs military and secret police and corrupt, multi-billion dollar arms deals which offset efforts by the Shah to look tough on Western oil companies. In many Iranian eyes, the passage of these 25 years only aggravated the coup of 53.

For Iran, this was the second time within 42 years that a representative government had been destroyed by foreign intervention. Irans Constitutional Revolution begun in 1905, had struggled to create a parliament, a free press and a rule of law to control a corrupt monarchy that sold national resources to foreign interests on generous terms. This struggle even produced an American hero, Howard Baskerville who died leading a Constitutionalist attack on Monarchist forces, and is still recognized as the American Lafayette in Iran. Yet by 1911, British and Russian intervention had dispersed the parliament and restored monarchal despotism. The effective replay of these events in 1953 would convince many Iranians that democracy, with its openness and freedom, could not maintain national independence against foreign intrigue. Such feelings combined with an old feud between the clergy and the reinstalled, American-supported dynasty created perfect conditions for the growth of religious militancy. .

Such facts are essential to an understanding of the 1979-81 hostage crisis which was sparked by fear of yet another restoration of the monarchy. I appreciate the horrific nature of kidnapping and hostage-taking and as an assistant state attorney general, helped secure severe penalties for such crimes. However, the quarter-century rule of the American-supported Shah would also involve political executions and torture. This repressive monarch became the cornerstone of American policy in the region and a status of forces agreement exempting American personnel from Iranian laws only increased Iranian feelings of betrayal and humiliation. Most significantly, the Shahs reign saw the beginnings of an American-supported nuclear program in Iran which eventually would have been able to develop nuclear weapons.

The restoration of the Shah also affected Irans relationship with Israel and it is disingenuous for you to denounce Iran as always having posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq. In 1947, Iran with its Shiite-Persian majority joined 12 other nations including Hindu-majority India in opposing the creation of Israel through the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. India like Iran, shares no border with Israel and like Iran, has had a traditional enmity with Sunni Islam. Nonetheless, India had the freedom to develop its own diplomacy and foreign policy which would eventually include recognition of Israel. In contrast, Iranian foreign policy under the Shah was heavily influenced by the United States and the Shahs support of Israel would be widely perceived as another Western violation of Iranian self-determination.

Thus, some substantial anti-Israeli sentiment developed in a nation that was traditionally indifferent, if not hostile to the interests of Sunni Muslims such as the Palestinian Arabs. Although such sentiments can still be played by cunning politicians such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, powerful actuarial trends strongly favor pro-Western and even pro-American perspectives. Approximately 60 percent of Irans population is now under the age of 35 and this younger generation is unquestionably tired of the revolutionary dogma of its elders.

This younger generation represents a realistic hope for a peaceful and stable Middle East but only if Iran is freed from fears of regime change and permitted to continue developing its own, unique democratic institutions which already show progress even within the Islamic Republic. Thus, there is no more important foreign policy change we can believe in than renunciation of the neo-conservative prerogative of regime change for nations that have not attacked the United States and restoration of our fundamental belief in self-determination. Such was expressed as a foreign policy concept in the 1941 Atlantic Charter which guaranteed all peoples the right to choose their own form of government. This guarantee was a primary objective of the World War II Allies and your grandfather and great-uncle, as well as members of my family sacrificed to advance this goal.

Given the Wests long-term stifling of Iranian democracy, it is disingenuous to denounce Iran as the greatest strategic challenge to our nation in the Middle East. To the contrary, Iran opposed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan before and after the September 11th attacks. Iranian assistance to the Northern Alliance in the wake of those attacks was crucial to victory over the Taliban and subsequent diplomatic efforts by Iran helped smooth Afghanistans transition to the Karzai government. Iran was then rewarded with placement on President Bushs axis of evil and presumably targeted for regime change some time after Iraq. Your easy road to national security toughness only reinforces this volatile situation and gives the Bush administration no incentive to choose the presently-available diplomatic alternative to war.

If you genuinely represent change we can believe in you should not be denouncing not Iran, but rather the grossly un-American policy of regime change which accounts for the current state of affairs in that troubled nation. If you genuinely want to win the election, you need a national security platform that restores our fundamental belief in self-determination, not a sorry attempt to out-tough John McCain with tirades against Iran. Except for Western-instigated aggression by the Shah during the 1970s, Iran has not attacked a neighbor in over two centuries and, if afforded genuine self-determination, Iran will likely align itself with the country that gave it Howard Baskerville.

It is no coincidence that the overthrow of Mossadegh, the arming of the Shah, the beginnings of his nuclear program, and even long-term support for Saddam Husseins war against Iran, all occurred under Republican administrations. Is it asking too much of our Democratic candidate to recognize these facts and demand genuine change we can believe in?

Respectfully yours,

Bob Petrusak



Bob Petrusak is a retired government attorney who spent approximately 23 years in criminal justice as an appellate and trial prosecutor, a defense attorney, a police administrator, and a corrections attorney.

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