NASA has proven that it is easier to find liquid water on Mars than to find a major Republican politician who will admit that the U.S. is at least partially to blame for Iran's hostility to the U.S. It's easier to denounce Iranians when they scream "Death to America" than to acknowledge that they have some justification for their anger. It's easier for us to threaten war with them than for us to leave our warm cocoon of self-righteousness and take a good hard look at our own behavior.
I do not have to remind Americans of Iran's aggression against us or our allies. They've heard of Iran's humiliating hostage takeover of the American Embassy in 1979. They know that Iran has armed Hezbollah and Hamas who then use these weapons against Israel. And they constantly hear how evil the Iranians are from our politicians for imprisoning or murdering gays and religious minorities (though those same politicians seldom say we should break off relations with Saudi Arabia which is just as brutal in that respect.)
But most Americans are blissfully unaware of the full extent of our aggression against Iran. If we want to reduce the level of animosity that Iranians feel towards the American government we need to understand why they feel the way they do. Juan Cole has written an excellent column explaining why Iranians hate us. I strongly suggest you read it. My column today with some elaborations is based largely on his column. He deserves much of the credit for this column.
Here are Cole's main points:
- We weakened Iran's economy by imposing a boycott on Iranian oil between 1951-1953 in response to Iranian demands for a greater percent of the profit from its oil.
- We backed the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh when he tried to nationalize the Iranian oil industry and installed the vicious Shah as our puppet dictator in his place. The takeover of our embassy did not occur out of the blue. It was payback for our overthrow of Mosadegh and support of the Shah.
- Saddam Hussein started Iraq's war against Iran in in 1980 . Juan Cole says that we started supporting the Iraqis in 1983. I've seen conflicting reports as to when we first started aiding Iraq in its war against Iran. According to a report by Seymore Hersh of the New York Times, we allowed the Israelis to ship billions of dollars of weapons to Iran in 1981, but we reversed course in 1982 when we saw Iraq was on the verge of losing. Hersh claims we wanted to prolong the war so we sent the Iraqis military intelligence in 1982, and in 1983 we started to allow third countries to sell Iraq billions of dollars in U.S. made weapons. However, Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aide write in Foreign Policy that we did not start sharing intelligence with the Iraqis until 1987. The Foreign Policy article is especially worth reading because it includes top secret memos proving that we helped Iraq target Iran's military despite concrete knowledge that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran. Iran had amassed significant forces and were poised to break through a gap in Iraqi defenses in 1987. Iraq would have probably lost the war had Iran broken through, and this was an outcome we were unwilling to accept. Our intelligence information enabled Iraq to repeatedly target Iranian soldiers with lethal sarin nerve gas. As a result, the Iranians had to settle for a draw after a war that cost them up to a million lives. Whether we should have aided Hussein to prevent Iran from winning the war is a topic Americans can debate. But there is no debate on this question amongst Iranians. Our knowing assistance to Iraq's chemical weapon campaign against them is the number one reason they hate us.
- The USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 during the war, killing 290 people. We initially covered up our responsibility for the shooting and tried to pin all the blame on the Iranians. Though we later expressed regret for the incident, we have never issued an apology. On the contrary, two years after the incident we presented the Captain of the Vincennes with a Legion of Merit award.
- We protected the anti-Iranian terrorist group known as MEK after we invaded Iraq in 2003. We may have been required to protect them from violence in 2003 since they renounced further terrorist acts, but we were not obligated to protect them from legal prosecution. (Ironically, the Bush White House had used the fact that Iraq sheltered terrorist groups like the MEK as one of its justifications for our invasion of Iraq. In addition to accusing MEK of launching terror attacks against Iran, the White House accused it of killing several U.S. civilians and military personnel in the 1970's.) We removed MEK from our list of terrorist organizations in 2012 and MEK leader Maryam Rajavi was invited to testify before Congress against Iran in 2015 by opponents of nuclear negotiations with Iran.
I can guarantee you that you will not hear a single Republican running for President acknowledge any of these facts during the campaign. Instead, you will hear hotheads like Ted Cruz threatening to introduce Ayatollah Khamenei to his 72 Virgins.
Ted Cruz's approach is the one you should vote for if you'd rather see Americans die in Iran than venture out of your cocoon of self-righteousness and examine our own culpability for Iran's hatred towards our government. Ted Cruz's approach is the one you should take if taking a good hard look at our own actions makes you more uncomfortable than going to war with Iran. But let there be no mistake about it. If we go to war with Iran, then the cost in blood and money will be much higher than Ted Cruz and his fellow neocons expect it to be. You may claim the right to refuse to acknowledge reality, but your refusal may cost our nation dearly.