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Iran Before and After the Shah: Clearing a Misunderstanding

Scott, a frequent commenter on this blog, asked me a question:

I took a class on Middle Eastern history in college, but my details are fuzzy–consequentially, my questions might come out a little obscure.

To my understanding, Iranian culture and tolerance was a little different before approximately 1976. I don’t remember the leader(s) name(s), but I think the last name was Shah. My understanding is that the environment in Iran, though still heavily Islamic, was far more westernized in nature, that education was more liberal, and that Iran was a safer place for people of differing world views.

1) Is my general understanding anywhere close to accurate?
2) If so, was Iran a “better” place, socially, for people like yourself (and others like me).
3) If so, what went wrong?

This is an important question because most westerners and many Iranians think that things were all better when Shah was the ruler of Iran, and forget one essential improvement.

What Scott writes here is the general view, but I disagree with it.

In many ways are situation is worse than the time of the Shah. The regime is much less tolerant, as the Shah didn’t try to control people’s private lives, and the laws were much better too, as they didn’t include so much sexism and medieval punishments. The economy was better, and Iran wasn’t the bad guy to most of the world, and Iranians could travel around the world without suspicion. In many ways the Shah tolerated his opposition better, although he allowed torture and censorship, they were used less relentlessly than now. So, no one can doubt that the regime which was in power was much better than this one.

However, I think it’s a very narrow view of society to think everything is the regime and the laws. The Shah’s modernization was focused on making Iran “look” modern, and yes, there was an artificial middle class which went to beaches with bikini and lived very similar to westerners, but I say “artificial” because they were really created by the Shah’s economy and they were not representative of the majority of people, who became poorer and poorer and also felt indignant about the Shah’s disregard for the clergy. So, they represented a false picture of Iranian society. They pretended that Iranians are a modern nation, while they weren’t.

The Islamic Revolution brought people into the political arena, and they haven’t been able to banish people from the scene since. Unlike the Shah’s regime, the Islamic Republic allows some breathing space in the elections, letting people to at least elect a reformist within the same system. The Shah’s regime was the same before 1950s where he and the CIA removed the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from the office and then it became absolute autocracy. It was then the divide between the regime and the people got wider and wider and resulted in a revolution.

Ultimately, the Shah’s regime can look good only in comparison to Islamic Republic. He wasn’t good in any way.

But, as I’ve said, people’s presence in the political life has caused a change somewhere much more important, in the society itself. We have a long way to go, but our society is much less sexist than it was – now a majority of our university students are women, while at that time many women had problem going out of their homes. In 1979 no one was democratic, the debate was between Islamists, Stalinists, Stalinist Islamists, and the supporters of monarchy. There were few democrats, like the acting Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, but they were out-powered and in minority. But right now democracy and freedom of speech are becoming things that people actually want.

Our regime has regressed. Our society has progressed and rapidly.

That is why I ultimately think the Iranian society is in a better shape now that it was before. There are many dangers ahead of us that can undone everything – war, civil war, etc. But ultimately, I think Shah’s progress was a fake one, while people’s progress is real.

Comments

  1. Amin says

    Agreed. Very true and well-said, Most Iranian people and teenagers, without a good analysis of historical facts, think of the state of things in Shah’s reign as much better than how things stand now. They do not know that while free bars and free women singers are necessary in a democratic, un-discriminating and free society, they did not represent a truly free people in Shah’s times. The majority of people were vastly discriminated against in ways either unknown to them or ignorantly ignored. This was actually the reason a revolution that comprehensive and that deep and that great happened.

    • says

      There are people in Russia who are nostalgic for Soviet communism. Ignorance is only bliss until its disspelled by reality.

      The old saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Nostalgia for the Shah says they’d prefer the devil they know only half of.

  2. Splicer says

    I’m assuming that there are a few gay people in Iran who would disagree with you if they hadn’t been hanged.

    • Kaveh Mousavi says

      The gays are hanged by the government, and I mentioned that the government is much worse in comparison, I said people have become more open-minded.

      The gays weren’t tolerated back in Shah’s day as well. There’s a difference between “society has gotten better” and “society is now a utopia with no problems”. The Iranian society is now very homophobic, much worse than western societies, but there are cracks in that too, as many people are starting to come out in the favor of tolerance. It’s still very sexist as well, but much less than that time.

      Also, the absurdity of your comment is doubled by the fact that it pretends that my situation in Iran is better than gays, as if atheists are not hanged for their atheism, or are not vilified and marginalized by their families.

      • says

        Kaveh, how would you assess attitudes toward gays and atheists in Iran now? I’m talking about feelings of ordinary people, not government policy. If the Islamic Republic ended and Iran became a democracy, would it be safe to be known as gay or as an atheist, at least in the large cities? Any differences between the core Persian culture and minority areas like Azerbaijan?

        • Kaveh Mousavi says

          That’s very hard to assess. Point is, most people hide their real ideas about homosexuality and atheism, trying to ignore the issue altogether. Therefore I cannot really answer your question because of the lack of information.

          • colnago80 says

            Hey, when former president Ahmadinejad was asked during a question and answer session, after delivering a speech to an audience at Columbia University, about the status of homosexuals in Iran, he replied that, “we don’t have that problem there”,.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            … … And?

            Do you honestly think I don’t know that? It’s one of the most known news events in Iran. What’s your point?

    • says

      The Persian language is actually Indo-European and not related to Arabic at all. It’s acquired a lot of Arabic loan words since the Islamic conquest, but “shâh” is a native word.

      • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

        Persian is where we get “checkmate” from in chess isn’t it?

        I vaguely recall hearing / reading somewhere that chess was originally a persian game and “checkmate” is from “shah mat” meaning the “Shah is dead or suchlike correct?

        Possibly unreliable memory serving, there are also quite a few star names derived from Persian too? For instance as the two companions of and Altair itself, a prominent trio* of Tarazed -Altair- Alshain all apparently names derived from something persian meaning something poetically evocative like “the star striking falcon.”

        * Labelled photographic star chart here : http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/aql-t.html

        • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

          PS. Strangely enough, there’s actually a star, Alpha Indi, in the southern sky with the (rarely used but still real) name – in English – of “The Persian ‘ despite it being in a far southern constellation probably not visible in Iran or Europe – see :

          http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/persian.html

          The Persian Is an orange giant star located a hundred light years away and named for unknown reasons by Jesuit astronomers probably the same ones who were also first to split (separate) the binary stars of Alpha Centauri and Alpha Crucis.

          • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

            Thanks. Hey, we all have areas we feel passionate and know stuff about – mine is astronomy.

            Actually turns out I messed up somewhat from skimming the link and not taking it all in – The Persian (Alpha Indi) does just appear in northern skies (or did anyhow although maybe not now due to the effects of precession – the slow orbital “wobbling top” cycle enough not to now depending on latitude, would have to check) and so the Jesuit astronomers who named it were probably based in China not the southern hemisphere ones who split Acrux and Alpha Cen.

            Its easy enough to remember the English proper star names – there’s just a couple of them (the Persian, Peacock, The Garnet Star,) making them more exceptional and memorable.

  3. colnago80 says

    Look, the Shah was not a nice man by any stretch of the imagination. Compared to the Assads pere and fils in Syria and the late and unlamented Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he was an angel. Non beastly leaders in the Middle East are the notable by their absence. And congenital liar Bibi is also not a nice man (former French President Sarkozy: I can’t stand him (Bibi) he’s such a liar; former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon: you (Bibi) were born a liar).

  4. rapiddominance says

    Wow! Thank you for taking my request.

    I think you’ve helped me sort some things out here, such as the difference between assessing the wellness of a regime versus the wellness of the general society. While an American like myself sees and hears more news about Iran’s ruling body, what I and many others don’t achieve is a healthy appraisal of the ATTITUDES of the Iranian people.

    The part about the “artificial modernization” rings a bell. As I’m recalling a little more from my class, I recall that “the Shah” (thank you for another correction, you and Rene) was all about making appearances for the western world. It appears from your assessment that the Shah’s “theatrics” disenfranchised most of the people economically and that his blatant disgregard for the clergy was not what Iranian situation needed at that time.

    I think one of the other reasons some Americans also have a sentiment that the Shah’s regime was better is because it was more allied with us than the current one. So there could be a little selfish projection going on here, also.

    Thank you not just for answering my questions but for also exceeding my expectations.

    Scott Morgan

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Interesting analysis there.

    Some years ago my family incl. me (in Australia) got quite close to an Iranian family who fled that country after the fall of the Shah and became our next door neighbours for a few years. They certainly were adamant that things were much better under his regime and at least one of them would likely be killed if she ever returned there.

    Now I’ll admit this isn’t an objective view (if there can be such a thing anyhow) given their history but I believe them and think they’re good people too.

    The Shah’s modernization was focused on making Iran “look” modern, and yes, there was an artificial middle class which went to beaches with bikini and lived very similar to westerners, but I say “artificial” because they were really created by the Shah’s economy and they were not representative of the majority of people, who became poorer and poorer and also felt indignant about the Shah’s disregard for the clergy. So, they represented a false picture of Iranian society. They pretended that Iranians are a modern nation, while they weren’t..

    Would this be true (to at least some extent?) of most modernised Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Quatar etc .. do you think Kaveh Mousavi?

    • Kaveh Mousavi says

      There are some things to be considered. First, I’m talking about NOW. Right after the Islamic Republic things were much MUCH MUUUCH worse than any time in our history, before or after, in terms of executions and human rights violations. Also, I think your friend was talking about the regime, and not the people and the social climate, and I agree with her.

      I think it’s true about most countries. The United Arab Emirates is governed by very reactionary sheikhs who allow discos and alcohol and such but disregard all modern values, for example.

    • colnago80 says

      Two or three years ago, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who is an apologist for the mad mullahs who run Iran, in addition to being a two fisted Israel basher, was invited by Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg to visit a synagogue in Santa Monica, Ca., most of whose members are refugees from Iran. Needless to say, Cohen got an earful of negativity, which has had little effect on his bloviations on the New York Times editorial page.

      • Kaveh Mousavi says

        So disagreeing with military attack against Iran and promoting negotiations – something that the majority of Iranians have shown repeatedly that they support – trying to add some nuance into the discussion, and backing the 2009 protest movements is ” being apologist for the mad mullahs”? Especially that part about supporting the opposition movement – that’s very “apologist for the mad mullahs”. He should have supported war, lack of dialogue, and the validity of 2009 elections, which is, by the way, exactly the same things Ahmadinejad stood for.

        • Pierce R. Butler says

          As a relative newcomer to Freethought Blogs, you may not have previously encountered colnago80 (who previously posted as slc1).

          He has repeatedly and emphatically called for US nuclear attacks on all major Iranian cities – mostly for the crime of saying uncomplimentary things about Israeli policies – and not backed down despite multiple corrections from other commenters to his “facts” and “morals”.

          Oddly enough, on issues unrelated to the Middle East, he frequently makes sense.

        • colnago80 says

          I would point out to Mr. Mousavi that there were a very substantial number of Iranian students studying in American universities during the Shah’s regime, paid for by the Iranian government. I personally was acquainted with a few of them. In particular, I knew a colleague (I will not name him because he still has relatives in Iran) who is a professor of engineering at a university in Southern California who was a graduate student at the time who was talking to his mother, who was in Iran, over the telephone; she advised him that, if he was not allowed to stay in the US to go to England, Canada, etc. but under no circumstances to return to Iran. This over an open phone line, undoubtedly monitored by the regime. This occurred in the early 1980s, not too long after the Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Shah as dictator.

          Incidentally, Butler’s claim that I have called for nuclear attacks on Iranian cities is seriously in error. I would be opposed to nuclear or any other bombing attacks on Iranian cities.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            That’s good to hear. However, I wish you to go back to my article and point out what exactly contradicts the anecdote of your Iranian friend. I would advise my friends to stay out of Iran as well. And I have mentioned frankly that the regime is worse, that the intolerance and the tortures are worse. I said PEOPLE have become better. PEOPLE are more tolerant than they were.

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            The search capacity at FtB is not what it should be, but I did find this from colnago80/slc1:

            There is nothing wrong with Iran that a couple of Tsar bomb wouldn’t cure

            .

            and this:

            We have to hit Iran before they develop nuclear weapons.

            .

            Those with better google-fu than I should be able (start with Ed Brayton’s “Dispatches” blog at FtB, and look for “15-megaton”) to find lots of other examples, because they exist.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            @Pierce R. Butler:

            I really hope that he has changed his mind since then, because it’s not really a nice thing to think. The human cost of war for Iranians will be devastating.

          • colnago80 says

            Re Pierce Butler

            Here’s what Butler claimed I have advocated:

            He has repeatedly and emphatically called for US nuclear attacks on all major Iranian cities

            Note that in neither of the quotations did I advocate bombing Iranian cities. In fact, I have never advocated bombing Iranian cities and would be opposed to any such action and I defy him or anyone else to produce a quotation where I advocated such action.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            That sounds like a very poor evasion. Where should they “hit” Iran then, if not in cities?

          • Silentbob says

            Nick Gotts:

            slc1,

            So you don’t deny that you advocate nuking Iran. That makes you an advocate of mass murder, so you’ve rather abandoned any claim to the moral high ground, even if your opponents in argument were all Nazis.

            slc1:

            Not only do I not deny it, I will repeat it. There is nothing wrong with Iran that a half dozen 15 megaton bombs won’t cure.

            (colnago80 and slc1 are the same person)

            Presumably the six 15 megaton nuclear bombs were intended to leave the cities untouched.
            (/sarcasm)

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            Digging further in the FtB archives, I found this gem:

            Just to set the record straight, I stated that there was nothing wrong with Iran that a half dozen 15 megaton bombs wouldn’t cure. A half dozen, not a dozen.

            Such moderation and subtlety! (Nope, so far I still haven’t dug up the earlier comments alluded to above. Does FtB have a master template full of “nofollow” commands or suchlike?)

          • colnago80 says

            Re Pierce R. Butler

            And still Butler fails to find a quote where I proposed that Iranian cities be bombed with conventional bombs let alone thermonuclear bombs.

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            colnago80 as slc1 in 2011:

            There is nothing wrong with Iran that a half dozen well targeted 15 megaton bombs won’t cure. No need to use ground troops to invade and occupy.

            Another commenter in the same thread:

            Most of us aren’t interested in killing tens of millions of people, the majority of which are women, children, and civilians.

            And colnago80/slc1′s statesmanlike reply:

            If one wants to make an omelet, one must break a few egg shells.

            Another commenter provided a link to the earlier incarnation of that same blog at scienceblogs.com, where a change in management led to wholesale loss of comment files – but the only one which survives is, confirming that later commenter’s allegation, an indignant response to our friend’s proposal to nuke Lebanon.

            Plus, regarding Palestine:

            Settlements today, settlements tomorrow, settlements to the far horizon, settlements forever.

            I concede the quibble that “cities” as such did not appear in that rant – merely genocidal disregard for Iranian life across the board.

          • Anthony Burber says

            SLC1/colnago80 thinks the Afghan and Iraq wars could have been avoided by nuclear bombing of Tripoli, Baghdad, Tehran and Kabul:

            That’s where Dubya make his big mistake. Instead of invading Afghanistan and Iraq, he should have loaded up a B52 with four 15 megaton bombs, dropping the first one on Tripoli which would take care of Qaddafi, the second on Baghdad which would take care of Saddam, the third on Tehran which would take care of the Ayatollahs, and the fourth on Kabul which would take care of the Taliban. No need for sending in US troops.

            Just confirming that SLC1 quoted above and colnago80 are the same individual:

            As a matter of fact, when I signed up for email addresses at Gmail, I made it perfectly clear so that there would be no misunderstanding, that I had previously been using SLC under Verizon’s email system. Obviously, you missed that tidbit. No sockpuppetry involved.

            colnago80 really likes the Tsar Bomba:

            There is nothing wrong with Iran that a couple of Tsar bomb wouldn’t cure

            colnago80 thinks that Iran needs to be “shown the mailed fist”:

            Hey, Adelson is my kind of guy. It’s about time that Iran be shown the mailed fist. The mad mullahs don’t understand the namby pamby come let us reason together approach. The only language they understand is a knee to the groin.

            This “mailed fist” should be in the form of kiloton weapons dropped on Iran, and if those don’t have the desired effect, use “something more authoritative”:

            In fairness, Adelson’s statement made it clear that the nuclear weapon he proposed be set off in the desert as a shot across the bow as it were. Presumably, it would be a low yield weapon ~1 Kt or less. If we don’t have such weapons, we could always procure one from Israel which has a fair sized armory of such weapons, designed to be used against the Palestinians, if necessary. Only if it failed to get the attention of the mad mullahs in Tehran would something more authoritative be used on that shithole.

            This attack on another country would be fine because the fallout would be “minimal”, and the “something more authoritative” should be dropped on Tehran:

            The fallout from a low yield device would be minimal. The yield of 1 Kt is smaller by a factor of 20 or more then nuclear weapons that were tested in in the 1950s and 1960s. That’s why Israel developed such weapons to use against the Palestinians if necessary. By the way, the, shithole referred to was Tehran.

            The earliest quote above is from 2012, and people can change. colnago80, I would be happy to hear that you no longer want to drop nuclear bombs on Tehran, or any other part of Iran. However, the fact that you have lied about the subject so far does not offer much hope.

          • Silentbob says

            @ Anthony Burber

            Well that’s pretty conclusive, especially your first quote. It seems colnago80 must either admit he was lying when he said “I have never advocated bombing Iranian cities”, or clutch at more straws by quibbling that Tehran is only one city!

          • Silentbob says

            … The population of Tehran, by the way, is about 8 million. More than the estimated number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            It’s actually about 14 million in days, people move from outskirts to work, 8 million live there.

          • colnago80 says

            Re Anthony Burber

            Well, I had forgotten that I made these comments 2 years ago. Actually, considering that neither Iran, Iraq, or Libya had anything to do with 9/11, it was poorly thought out so I take them back. Live and learn.

            I continue to believe that Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would be a disaster for the region. Despite all the noise coming from Tel Aviv, Iran’s Arab neighbors are even more concerned about the possibility. The US must do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening and, if military action is required, only the US can take them out with conventional weapons and minimal collateral damage. If it is left to Israel, they will have to use nuclear weapons, with possibly worldwide consequences.

            For the information of Kaveh, during the 1973 war between Egypt, Syria, and Israel, the latter came close to using nukes to destroy the Aswan Dam. The bombs were already loaded on 6 F4 Phantom jets on the order of the Chief of the IDF General Staff (equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US), General Elazar. Only when then Israeli Prime Minister Meir found out about it was the order given to stand down and Elazar was fired. Had the planes taken off on their mission and the Dam been destroyed, it could very easily led to a nuclear exchange between the former Soviet Union and the US.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would be a disaster for everyone, including ordinary Iranians. However, right now the talks are moving forward, and there are many signs that Iran has already abandoned weapons ambition and wants to maintain enrichment just to save face from its own internal supporters. Also, it’s pointless to think anything short of occupation will thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Even if the US attacks three or four nuclear facilities only (which would not stop the program, only delay it) it will cause Iranian crazies to gain upper hand and to force USA into full-fledged war, and most probably the reformists will be wiped aside and political prisoners would be massacred. War would be inevitably disastrous.

            Plus, right now diplomacy would solve things, if radicals like don’t succeed in finally sabotaging them.

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would be a disaster for everyone, including ordinary Iranians.

            It’s always the same wherever one goes – it’s not the most powerful rulers who have the happiest populations.
            – Graham Greene

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            As for colnago80′s bizarre claim that “The US must do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening and, if military action is required, only the US can take them out with conventional weapons and minimal collateral damage.”, we need only ask the Libyans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Sudanese, et al. about the cleanliness and surgical precision of the American military machine these days.

            Incidentally, he’s still waving his dick imaginary nukes around Iran today:

            … maybe we can take out their nuclear facilities with conventional bombs with the nukes held in reserve to act as a deterrent against retaliation.

            Some people’s children just weren’t brought up right.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            Pierce, I appreciate your forceful arguments but please refrain from personal attacks. You’ve made your case very clear, there’s no need to “spice” it up with insult about someone’s upbringing. Thank you very much.

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            My reports about slc1/conago80′s rants were intended to alert you about certain perceived ethical deficiencies, for which my “… not brought up right” riff is a regular trope in (at least my southeastern US dialect of) American-English.

            Anyhow, having waved my red flag to predictable results, I’ll very happily let this fade out.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            Oh, I didn’t mean you were wrong in quoting him. And if that’s an innocent phrase, I apologize for misunderstanding.

          • colnago80 says

            Re Pierce Butler

            The collateral damage from an attack by the USAF using bunker buster bombs will be far less then an attack by Israel using nuclear weapons. I sincerely hope that Kaveh is right and that Iran will forgo development of nuclear weapons with our side agreeing to assist them in the development of nuclear reactors for electricity production, possibly using thorium instead of uranium. As I understand it, thorium reactors can’t produce nuclear weapons.

            Unfortunately, I am not sanguine about the intentions of the mullahs who run Iran. Just today, we have a bellicose threat from the air force commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to which I link via the FARS news agency, hardly a source of Zionist propaganda.

            http://goo.gl/LlumsC

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            I agree that some elements in the regime want the talks to fail, and Revolutionary Guard commanders are among them. But right now they are in minority. Don’t assume that the regime is monolithic, there are many deep fractions, and it seems most people in the regime wants to get this crisis solved peacefully. I can write a post and give you evidence, but just as a taste: there were 8 candidates in the last elections, only two of them were reformists, the rest were conservatives. Only one candidate was for confrontation with the west, and that candidate got only 11% of votes (that is, only 4 million votes). Actually, although the reformist candidate was Rouhani, he was not the one most vocal about nuclear issue and how we should stop acting crazy about it, it was Ali Akbar Velayati, who’s a conservative, and the advisor to the supreme leader on foreign affairs, and he’s much more “inside” the regime than both Rouhani and Ahmadinejad. Also, the fact that Zarif, a diplomat brought back from forced retirement, a man who’s whole fame and credential lies on the fact that he represents the pro-west section of the regime, who’s a family friend of Joe Biden and Kofi Annan, and is called “American Zarif”, passed easily from the conservative parliament, all point to the fact that the regime wants to give diplomacy a chance.

          • Silentbob says

            Sorry, I can’t leave it at that.

            colnago80:

            Actually, considering that neither Iran, Iraq, or Libya had anything to do with 9/11, it was poorly thought out so I take them back.

            “Poorly thought out”?! That’s your reason for taking it back? Because of an insufficient link to 9/11, not because of the casual recommendation of wholesale slaughter?

            I’m sorry Kaveh, if I’m crossing a line, but colnago80: Your ‘ethics’ were, and are, thoroughly disgusting.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            Just so that I’m clear: It’s very OK to call someone’s position unethical, because that relates to the debate, and I think his positions are unethical as well. What I meant that time was to not make it overly personal, that’s all.

          • Pierce R. Butler says

            … an innocent phrase…

            Well, a regular one – probably more so among the older generations. We-all don’t do much of that there “Innocent” stuff down heah…

          • Anthony Burber says

            colnago80:

            The collateral damage from an attack by the USAF using bunker buster bombs will be far less then an attack by Israel using nuclear weapons.

            Your lesser of the two evils is still evil.

            The US must do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening and, if military action is required, only the US can take them out with conventional weapons and minimal collateral damage. If it is left to Israel, they will have to use nuclear weapons, with possibly worldwide consequences.

            The US does not “must do” anything. Military action is never “required”. Israel will never “have to” use nuclear weapons. All of these are choices that nations make. Yes, choosing “no” may have severe consequences, from breaking a treaty to the deaths of millions. But nations still have agency.

            As for the choice being made here – if the possibility of some nation launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike is horrifying, any other nation choosing the certainty of launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike to “prevent” it is the one whose foreign policy is driven by psychopaths who only understand the language of violence.

          • colnago80 says

            Re Burber

            The US does not “must do” anything. Military action is never “required”. Israel will never “have to” use nuclear weapons. All of these are choices that nations make. Yes, choosing “no” may have severe consequences, from breaking a treaty to the deaths of millions. But nations still have agency.

            Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. If negotiations currently underway fail, then there is no alternative to the use of military force. Appeasement does not pay, Neville Chamberlain found that out the hard way.

            The government of Israel would be remiss in its responsibilities if it treated the proposed actions threatened by Iran with the same what me worry attitude that was displayed in the 1930s to the actions threatened by Frankenberger.

          • Anthony Burber says

            colnago80:

            Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

            Eveything else you say about Iran (including a whole series of comments on bombing Tehran that you have not retracted) depend on the sentence above being true. This sentence is not self-evidently true. There is still no “must” here. I do not relish the thought of another nation acquiring nuclear weapons, but to suggest that the mere threat should inevitably lead to military action is vile nonsense.

            Citing the Munich Agreement of 1938 does not provide the necessary proof. The history of the Twentieth Century features hundreds of treaties between distrusting nations, dozens of them specifically limiting armaments. The Munich Agreement is only relevant as one data point out of all those hundreds. It deserves scrutiny because it went so catastrophically wrong, but it seems diplomats already do study it, and don’t need to be reminded about it before doing their jobs.

      • colnago80 says

        Re Anthony Burber

        Given what the Iranian military leader said in the article to which I linked earlier on in this exchange, and to which I link again, do you really think that the Prime Minister of Israel, whoever he or she might be, should just take the position what me worry given the history of what happened in Germany from 1932 to 1945. This is the type of language used by Frankenberger, which was sloughed off by the US, Britain, and France at the time as so much empty rhetoric. That prime minister would be remiss in his duties to make the same assumption here.

        http://goo.gl/LlumsC

        • Kaveh Mousavi says

          The Prime Minister of Israel knows – unlike you – why that Iranian military official has said that, knows that actually no one in Iranian leadership actually dares to look bad at Israel, that the whole point of the rhetoric is internal policies. So yes, s\he will have a choice, and that your comparison with Germany is entirely stupid because Iran has no real power to stand before Israel with or without nuclear weapons.

        • Anthony Burber says

          colnago80:

          Given what the Iranian military leader said in the article to which I linked earlier on in this exchange, and to which I link again [...]

          If you want people to read your links, you should:
          (1) Include the full link, without URL shortening, and
          (2) Quote meaningful portions of the text being linked to.

          Anyway, I did read it. Yes, jingoistic military threats sound pretty foolish, don’t they? They’re also clearly an attempt to score points with either citizens or neighboring countries, not a prelude to actual military action. Brigadier General Hossein Salami also sounds like General Curtis LeMay:

          …Native analysts may look sadly back from the future on that period when we had the atomic bomb and the Russians didn’t. Or when the Russians had acquired (through connivance and treachery of Westerns with warped minds) the atomic bomb – and yet still didn’t have any stockpile of the weapons. That was the era when we might have destroyed Russia completely and not even skinned our elbows doing it.

          China has The Bomb. [...] Sometime in the future–25, 50, 75 years hence–what will the situation be like then? By that time the Chinese will have the capability of delivery too. That’s the reason some schools of thinking don’t rule out a destruction of the Chinese military potential before the situation grows worse than it is today. It’s bad enough now.

          • colnago80 says

            LeMay made those comments after he had retired from the military. That is hardly apropos relative to the comments made by Salami who is on active duty.

  6. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    They certainly were adamant that things were much better under his regime and at least one of them would likely be killed if she ever returned there.

    “his regime” = the Shahs of course and she’d likely – almost certainly -be executed if she returned there now under the current theocratic rulers.

  7. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    My sister had several acquaintances who had fled Iran during the Shah’s regime … well-educated professionals.

    They went back after the regime fell, because they thought it was the right thing to do, help the country recover from the Shah’s regime.

    They had to leave again. Their crime this time was they were “too Westernized” and not conservative enough to make the increasingly “purer than thou” culture that developed tolerate them.

    • Kaveh Mousavi says

      Yeah, the regime still has a very low tolerance for education and universities in general, especially since students are at the forefront of democratic movements (also Rouhani support, btw).

      But I was talking about people and the social climate, not the regime.

  8. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    My grandparents spent some time in Tehran in 1965. They did not speak the language well, but (to borrow my grandmother’s phrase) had enough Farsi to “look like blithering idiots and offend everyone.” My grandmother says that she remembers amazing beauty (buildings, clothing, decor) and access to a Western-style lifestyle but a general feeling of tension, like there was something terrible lurking just behind the next corner. After leaving in early ’66, they never returned, and aside from a small number of souvenirs and some photos, you’d have to dig to figure out that this trip ever happened. This is unusual, as my family is generally big on frequently opening stories with, “Do you see that? I got that in [place] in [year]. What a trip! Let me tell you all about it.”

    I’ve always wondered about this, and generally ascribed the not-quite-right feeling they felt (and the lasting unease) to the repression of the Shah’s regime. I have no idea if ’65-’66 was a particularly momentous time or not.

    My general understanding is that if you fell into a few very specific categories, life in Iran prior to ’79 was very nice – and that if you fall into a few very specific categories, life in Iran is very nice now. Those two category sets are not the same, though I suppose there must be some overlap.

  9. nathanaelnerode says

    You’re probably not old enough to know, but do you have any idea what the situation was like back from 1946-1953 before Mossadegh was overthrown?

    The politics, from everything I’ve read, seemed like there were real democratic movements and real potential for *real* (rather than skin-deep) modernization. The politics seem to have been messy and the situation not exactly pleasant, but everyone seems to have thought that things could get better, and soon. And he implemented a bunch of society changes (including freeing farmers from “serf” status, tied to their land).

    Of course foreign interference prevented further improvements. The CIA coup (on behalf of what is now British Petroleum) against Mossadegh seems like the “original sin” which we are still looking back at.

    Although the reputation of the 1925-1941 period seems quite bad, and the situation during World War II looks even worse.

    • Anthony Burber says

      Although the reputation of the 1925-1941 period seems quite bad, and the situation during World War II looks even worse.

      I’d be fascinated to see any accounts of how Iranians perceived World War II. It is also sadly ironic that in 1943 Tehran was judged the best location for the Tehran Conference, where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met under very tight security to discuss high-level strategy.

  10. colnago80 says

    The Prime Minister of Israel knows – unlike you – why that Iranian military official has said that, knows that actually no one in Iranian leadership actually dares to look bad at Israel, that the whole point of the rhetoric is internal policies

    That’s essentially what was said about Schickelgruber in the 1930s, that he wouldn’t dare go to war against the combination of the US, Britain, France, and the former Soviet Union. Well, he did and, IMHO, could have won, at least to the extent of knocking Britain and the Soviet Union out of the war by the end of 1941, had he not made a number of strategic mistakes, particular building the Bismarck and the Tirpitz instead of Uboats. Contrary to popular opinion, WW2 was a near run thing for allies.

    • Kaveh Mousavi says

      That’s not reasoning. That’s a faulty analogy. The main difference is, Iran is not Nazi Germany, 2014 is not 1930, and the whole situation is completely opposite. I gave you many reasons from the Iranian politics that point to the fact that Iran is not going to build nuclear weapons, although it once wanted to.

      You are horribly misinformed about Iran.

      • colnago80 says

        I gave you many reasons from the Iranian politics that point to the fact that Iran is not going to build nuclear weapons

        Well, western and Arab intelligence services think otherwise and not only the Mossad. I would agree that Iran doesn’t really need nuclear weapons as the only country in the region that has them, Israel, can’t use them without US permission. This was an agreement made during the Kennedy Administration in which the US agreed to turn a blind eye toward Israel’s nuclear weapons program if Israel would agree to not publicize it and agree not to use them without permission from the US President. If the Aswan Dam had been attacked and destroyed in the 1973 war, Israel would have been in deep doo doo with the US because the Nixon Administration had not given such permission. In fact, Elazar had panicked for no reason because even after crossing the Suez Canal, the Egyptian forces were still a hundred miles from the border and the IDF still held the Mitla and other passes through the mountains just East of the canal. As it turned out, the Egyptian high command had no intention of advancing East of the canal and were under orders not to do so.

        IMHO, the only result of an Iranian nuke would be that Egypt and Saudi Arabia would rush to acquire them and Iran would be no better off.

        • Kaveh Mousavi says

          That’s false. All 17 US intelligence aganecies agree that Iran has made no move to make a bomb and had abandoned it after 2003.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/world/middleeast/us-agencies-see-no-move-by-iran-to-build-a-bomb.html?_r=0

          http://endthelie.com/2012/02/25/u-s-intelligence-agencies-agree-no-evidence-of-iranian-nuclear-weapons-program/

          Mossad also agrees that there is no evidence that Iran is seeking to make nukes anymore.

          http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/mossad-cia-agree-iran-has-yet-to-decide-to-build-nuclear-weapon-1.419300

          So?

          Yes, Iran seeking nukes is really a stupid move. The reason that they started the program was that they looked at North Korea and Gaddaffi and thought the nuke could serve as a guarantee against regime fall. But then they saw that the process is making things worse.

          • Kaveh Mousavi says

            Haaretz is more to the left than HuffingtonPost? That’s a strange thing to say. I always found it a centrist paper. Anyway, the difference is that you made a claim about what the western intelligence services and Mossad think about Iran’s program, I showed that your claim is false by linking to factual reports, and now you link to an opinion piece (which funnily I agree with) and a claim by a think tank?

            Also, what that USA Today report claims is in contrast with the IAEA report that Iran is complying to the Geneva agreement: http://us.icej.org/news/headlines/iaea-reports-says-iran-complying-geneva-agreement-so-far

            Which sounds also very stupid because the agreement didn’t make Iran stop enrichment, so “Iran is continuing despite the agreement” makes no sense.

            I’m starting to feel that your claim that you “wish we could solve this diplomatically but I think we can’t” is false, because you show an incredible resistance to accept ample evidence that supports diplomacy.

        • Anthony Burber says

          colnago80:

          I would agree that Iran doesn’t really need nuclear weapons as the only country in the region that has them, Israel, can’t use them without US permission. This was an agreement made during the Kennedy Administration in which the US agreed to turn a blind eye toward Israel’s nuclear weapons program if Israel would agree to not publicize it and agree not to use them without permission from the US President.

          You remain keen for the United States to start the nuclear bombing, so it would take a terminally naïve Iranian leader to trust the US to keep its own and Israel’s bombs in check.

          If the Aswan Dam had been attacked and destroyed in the 1973 war, Israel would have been in deep doo doo with the US because the Nixon Administration had not given such permission.

          I’m not sure why you keep repeating this story as though it supports your argument. If it is true, Israel’s nuclear policy is unstable and untrustworthy, and the US does not have the tight control you claim. No, knowing your opponent is in “deep doo doo” with their allies is not sufficient compensation for having a radioactive hole in your country and fallout in your water supply.

          • colnago80 says

            The problem in 1973 in Israel was the chain of command, which, apparently, was much too loose in that the commanding general of the IDF thought he could order a nuclear attack on an opponent without authorization of the civilian authority. Fortunately, he was soon set straight. I presume that things were tightened up after this incident so that something equivalent to the US “football”, e.g. the briefcase containing the codes for the president authorizing use of nuclear weapons which is supposed to always be in his proximity carried by a military officer, has been instituted in Israel. Such a procedure is also present in the other western countries having nuclear weapons, e.g. Britain, Russia and France. I don’t know about India and Pakistan.

            There was an article in the press at the time of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union describing Gorbachev turning over his “football” to Russian President Yeltsin.

    • Silentbob says

      @ 12 colnago80

      Contrary to popular opinion, WW2 was a near run thing for allies.

      That just makes your obsessive comparisons to Hitler and Chamberlain all the more absurd. Iran has zero chance a successful military confrontation with the United States, and is doubtless aware of the fact.

      • colnago80 says

        I don’t know about that. The US didn’t do to well in Vietnam. And Iraq isn’t turning out too well either, nor is Afghanistan.

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