Mehdi Hasan's Iran Death to America whitewash
Leftist pundit Mehdi Hasan has produced a garbled whitewash of Iran's Death to America agenda. But the truth is that the anti-American agenda is based on historical falsifications that many Westerners have simply internalised, as Potkin Azarmehr explains in this fascinating expose
Mehdi Hasan is an articulate and an intelligent person, but you can be both of those things and still talk gibberish and use absurd arguments. One such attempt by Mehdi Hasan can be seen in his article, “Death to America?” published on the Aljazeera website.
In the article, Hasan tries to rationalise the chants of, “Death to America” by the ruling clerics of Iran.
Chants of, “Death to America” are repeated in every Friday Prayer and in all the official gatherings in Iran, even as the Islamic Republic's representatives try to negotiate with the Americans and the deadline for a nuclear deal, that should result in the removal of crippling sanctions, looms.
So, how does Mehdi Hasan try to justify, explain, or rationalise these chants of, "Death to America"? First, he tries to sound even handed and quickly skims through the repressive nature of the Islamic Republic, the treatment of its Bahaii citizens and the brutal crackdown on the Green Movement.
But then he goes into a long narrative of what the “good reasons” for Iran's rulers to hate America are, by presenting several media myths as historical facts. The subtitle of the article, “What you need to know about Iran and the US”, also gives the impression that this is some kind of a factual history lesson by a learned historian.
Inevitably, top of the list is the media mythology surrounding the 1953 Coup. Hasan cites as fact one narrative of the event, that the CIA toppled a popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister because he nationalised Iranian oil. It is one of those "facts" that very much appeals to the niche market that Hasan feeds from.
The fact is however that Mossadegh was appointed by the Shah (having been nominated by the parliament) and not directly elected by the people. The oil nationalisation bill was passed by the parliament before Mossadeqh became the Prime Minister and in reality the true nationalisation of Iran's oil, which made a tangible economic benefit to the people of Iran, took place in the 1970s.
Without getting into the academic nitty-gritty details however, the most crucial fact that Hasan and others like him omit in bringing up the events of 1953 is that it was the clerics who helped topple Mossadegh.
In Iran today, Mossadegh is seen as a secular deviant and the clerics who toppled him are revered as heroic figures who sowed the seeds of today's Islamic Republic. So, to justify the chants of "Death to America" by the mullahs for the overthrow of Mossadegh who was overthrown with the backing of mullahs themselves misses a vital point.
Mossadegh's comrades did very badly after the Islamic revolution of 1979. They were either executed, assassinated, imprisoned or went into exile, mostly to the United States and Western Europe. So again how does the fall of Mossadegh justify the clerics' deadly chants?
Madeline Albright's apology to the mullahs for the overthrow of Mossadegh, mentioned by Hasan in the article, should not be taken as an endorsement of Hasan's justification. It is in fact evidence of the huge incompetence and ignorance of the US State Department, which is yet another subject to cover.
Hasan then quotes a claim by Amnesty International that under the Shah "no country in the world had a worse record in human rights than Iran". This is just nonsense.
The Shah's Iran was not like a Western democracy. But even if one only compares Iran under the Shah with its immediate neighbours at the time -- the USSR, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- a fair person would admit that it was much more humane and socially advanced by regional standards.
Hasan then continues with his one-sided rant, but he never mentions all the benefits that came Iran's way from being close to the US. For example, there is no mention of how the US stopped Soviet attempts to see the secession of Iran's North Western province of Azerbijan.
Nor does Hasan mention the huge numbers of Iranian students who benefited from being educated in the US. The current Rouhani administration has more members with PhDs from American universities than the U.S. cabinet itself. This includes the present foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
In his desperate attempts to vilify America and justify the chants of “Death to America” Hasan resorts to another media myth presented as fact: a totally fabricated report in the Guardian, which blamed sanctions for the medicine crisis in Iran at the same time as even the Iranian health minister was saying sanctions had nothing to do with it.
What caused the medicine crisis in Iran was that the foreign currency allocated to importing medicine was instead misdirected to the privileged few among Iranians who had used currency to import luxury cars.
A Times report correctly put the facts right at the time, but unfortunately it received less publicity than the Guardian who once again catered for a niche that likes to hear how bad America is. US sanctions never included the export of medicine to Iran.
Hasan is right, however, about the terrible tragedy of the shooting down of Iran Air 655 and the help given to Saddam by the Americans during the Iran-Iraq war. The French and the Soviets also gave weapons to Saddam, of course.
And let's remember that nothing can be compared to what Japan suffered during the second World War at American hands. Would Japan be justified in chanting, "Death to America" today? Or does it not provide a better example of putting the past behind us and focusing on the future instead?
But even if we accept Hasan's arguments -- lets say America has done Iran nothing but harm -- why do the likes of Hasan never examine, say, Russia's history with Iran?
Ever since Peter the Great, the Russians have dreamt about reaching the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Iran lost a great part of its territory to the Russians after years of war between the incompetent kings of the Qajar dynasty and Tsarist Russia which resulted in two humiliating treaties.
Even today, the very mention of those two treaties touches a sore point in the Iranian psychology. In return for the lost territory, the Russians pledged that they would protect the corrupt Qajar dynasty till the end
During Iran's constitutional revolution that demanded a limit on the king's powers and the establishment of an elected parliament, the constitutionalists sought refuge in the British embassy. The Russians, on the other hand, allied with the despot Qajar king, Mohamad Ali Shah, bombed the newly built parliament building while the deputies were inside.
Further support for the despot king meant Russian troops pouring into Iran and killing thousands of Iranian freedom fighters in the north.
After the Communists came to power in Russia they decided to establish a Soviet republic in Gilan, a northern province of Iran. In effect they tried to annex another part of Iran's territory.
During the same oil nationalisation that Hasan refers to, the Soviet backed puppet Communist Party of Iran, known as the Tudeh Party, demanded that northern Iranian oil should be given to the Soviets.
Yet, we never hear chants of, "Death to Russia" during Friday prayers in Iran. I wonder how Mehdi Hasan can explain that?
Potkin Azarmehr left Iran for the UK after the “Cultural Revolution”. He is currently a contributor to several newspapers and Television stations on Iran related news and also writes and produces a number of TV programs
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