The Iranian Uprising and Its Cold War Precursors

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As demonstrators continue to protest what was clearly a rigged election, police are responding with ”water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds,” according to the BBC today. For those who want to follow what’s going on in Tehran’s streets, I’m listing some sources for breaking news and ongoing updates. With the government trying to effect a news blackout, this is first-hand reporting on the fly–and at considerable risk to those providing it. 

Tehran Bureau, which describes itself as “an independent online magazine about Iran and the Iranian diaspora,” is running this Twitter feed, describing developments as they happen.

Our old colleague Laura Rozen is constantly updating a series of news links on Iran on The Cable, the blog she runs for Foreign Policy. It includes on-the-scenes reporting from Tehran Bureau and other on-the-ground sources, as well as a roundup of the best reports from more traditional Western and local new sources, official statements, and the like. She’s heard that in Washington, State and White House officials are glued to it.

There are also plenty of clandestine videos being released on YouTube and elsewhere, most of them shot on cell phones, showing the beating, tear gassing, and shooting of protestors. This one, sent to me by an Iranian reporter, reportedly shows how the Ahmadinejad regime prepared stacks of fradulent ballots before the election even began. 

 Even as we follow the current news, for members of the Silent Generation like myself, all of this will likely bring back memories of 1953, when a coup overthrew nationalist premier Mohammed Mossadegh. While the images are familiar, however, the situation is quite different: Rather than a homegrown democratic movement, the 1953 coup was engineered by the CIA, aided by British intelligence. At the height of the Cold War, the West could not tolerate the leftist Mossadegh, especially seeing that he intended to take over the oil business from the international corporations.

The two events are not entirely disconnected, however. The CIA-engineered coup reinstalled the despotic Shah of Iran, which in turn led more or less directly to the Islamic Revolution and the repressive regimes of today. In addition, the destructive history of American meddling inevitably affects the U.S. government’s response to the current uprising. 

The Obama administration is under pressure–mostly from the right–to make a more aggressive response to the situation in Iran. But American support for the protestors–or for Ahmadinejad’s rival Mir Hussein Mussavi–is tantamount to the kiss of death. As Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the New York Times: “If we overtly take sides, the regime could well react with a massive and bloody crackdown on the demonstrators using the pretext that they are acting against an American-led coup.” Or, as he might have said, another American-led coup.

 

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