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Islam and Politics ( 16 March 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why Iranian Mullahs helped the US install the Shah and then turned against him?

The role of Mullahs in the coup against liberal democrat Mossadegh

Why Khomeini and Islamic Fundamentalists Opposed the Shah and Hated the U.S.?

By Masoud Kazemzadeh


 In August 1953, the CIA organized a coup, which overthrew Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Iran’s foremost democratic leader. Mossadegh had nationalized the oil which was controlled by the Anglo Iranian Oil Company (now BP), instituted free elections, allowed full freedom of the press, and made a minor land reform and other progressive and democratic reforms. The U.S. helped the Shah to consolidate his dictatorship after the coup. This coup ensured the hostility of Iranian democrats who were brutally repressed since.

The communists were already hostile to the U.S., but this coup and the continued American support for the Shah provided fertile environment for them to spread their ideas and recruit members and supporters.

Despite the propaganda by Islamic fundamentalists, the hostility of the conservative religious forces against Americans was not due to the 1953 coup. Actually, Islamic fundamentalist forces were among the groups that were either mobilized by the CIA and the Shah supporters for the coup, or publicly supported the Shah after the coup. The fundamentalists opposed Mossadegh and collaborated with the CIA in 1953 as well as with the subsequent regime until 1961. Among those who closely worked with the CIA and the Shah during and after the coup are: Ayatollah Abolqassem Kashani, Kashani’s son who was one of the very first persons who talked at Radio Tehran as soon as it was captured by the coup plotters, Ayatollah Mohammad Behbahani, Hojatolislam Mohammad Taqi Falsafi, and Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi.1

Donald Wilber, one of the main architects of the CIA coup authored a secret official history of the coup, under the authorship of Clandestine Service History and entitled Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953. This document was published by the The New York Times on June 16, 2000 with names of many Iranian collaborators of the CIA redacted.2 Cryptome was able to recover only some of these names.3 One such redacted name that was recovered was one of "Ayatollah Kashani’s sons."4 Cryptome was unable to recover the redactions in the section that deals with the religious leaders. Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi, Ayatollah Behbahani, and Ayatollah Kashani who played major roles in the events5 are probably those whose name remained redacted.

The coup was organized by Kermit Roosevelt, a grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. Donald Wilber was one of the main CIA organizers of the coup. The coup brought to power Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi. It succeeded in organizing Islamic forces, monarchists, military officers, and paid mob against Mossadegh. The coup planning goes several months back and culminated earlier work by the British MI6 and an earlier CIA operation BADMAN. These operations weakened Mossadegh’s government, and strengthened those who opposed him. The CIA particularly relied upon military officers and Islamic forces.

According to the CIA secret history of the coup:

"(4) Religious Leaders.

It is our belief that nearly all the important religious leaders with large followings are firmly opposed to Mossadeq. Both the US field station and the British group have firm contacts with such leaders. The pro-Zahedi capabilities in this field are very great.

These leaders include such assorted and sometimes inimical elements as the non-political leaders [......] and [......], as well as [....] and [...] and his terrorist gang, [....]. During the period of intensive anti-Mossadeq publicity before the coup day the leaders and their henchmen will:

(a) Spread word of their disapproval of Mossadeq.

(b) Give open support to the symbol of the throne and give moral backing to the Shah through direct contact with him at the shrine.

(c) As required, stage small pro-religious anti-Mossadeq demonstrations in widely scattered sections of Tehran.

(d) the terrorist group to threaten that they are ready to take direct action against pro-Mossadeq deputies and members of Mossadeq’s entourage and government.

(e) Ensure full participation of themselves and followers in Situation A.

(f) After the change of government, give the strongest assurance over Radio Tehran and in the mosques that the new government is faithful to religious principles."6

 Islamic forces supporting the Shah and opposing Mossadegh during this period can be classified in three groups: Fadaian Islam, Ayatollah Brujerdi, and Ayatollah Kashani.

The "terrorist group" that Kermit Roosevelt and Donald Wilber mobilized was the "Fadaian Islam." The sole Islamic terrorist group in Iran in 1953 was the Fadaian Islam. The CIA mobilized the Fadaian Islam, the main Islamic fundamentalist group in Iran at the time, infamous for numerous assassinations, including an assassination attempt on Dr. Hossein Fatemi, who was Mossadegh’s foreign minister, as well as a foiled plan to assassinate then Prime Minister Mossadegh himself. The day after the coup, Fadaian Islam’s newspaper described the coup as "an Islamic revolution,"7 and stated:

Yesterday Tehran was shaking under the manly feet of the soldiers of the Muslim and anti-foreign army. Musaddiq, the old blood-sucking ghoul, resigned... under the annihilating blows of the Muslims... All governmental centers were captured by the Muslims and the Islamic army.8

Later on the Shah turned on the Fadaian Islam. Many members of the Fadaian Islam became leaders of the fundamentalist regime including Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, the so-called hanging judge for his role in mass executions on monarchists and Marxists after the revolution. The fundamentalist regime officially honors the Fadaian Islam and its founder Navab Safavi in postage stamps, ceremonies, and its publications.9

The second groups were the network of Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi. Brujerdi was the highest ranked Shia cleric at the time and was regarded as apolitical. Despite his declarations of being apolitical, his sympathies were with the Shah. When there was an attempt on the Shah’s life in February 1949, Brujerdi wrote: "May God Almighty preserve [your] kingdom."10 When the coup initially failed, the Shah escaped to Baghdad and then to Rome. From Rome, the Shah cabled a telegraph to Brujerdi. After the coup, Brujerdi publically supported the Shah, who badly needed support in the immediate aftermath of the coup. In his public cable, Brujerdi expresses "joy" to have received the Shah’s message and writes:

To His Royal Majesty, may God protect his kingship... It is hoped that Your Majesty’s return to Iran is blessed [by God] and will be the cause of the improvement of religious objectives, the glory of Islam and the tranquility of the Muslims.11

Brujerdi had many clerics and supporters within his circles. Those who played major roles in attacking Mossadegh and helping the Shah before and after the coup include Ayatollah Behbhani, hojatolislam Falsafi. In the words of one of the most prominent experts on this issue Shahrough Akhavi: "...the dominant clerical tendency, led, of course, by Brujerdi. Quietist, it ultimately became activists on behalf of royalism and against Musaddiq."12 On the very day that the coup succeeded Ayatollah Behbahani played one of the major roles of bringing crows to the streets against Mossadegh and in support of the coup plotters. In the words of Katouzian, "Behbahani was involved in organizing the mob during the 19 August coup."13 In the words of Mark Gasiorowski, The New York Times reporter on the streets of Tehran during the coup reports that, "a CIA officer who worked on the Iran desk at headquarters during the coup told him Behbahani was the key figure behind these demonstrations."14 After the coup, Falsafi made a speech attacking Mossadegh and eulogizing those killed during the coup.15

Ayatollah AbolQassem Kashani who had earlier supported Mossadegh gradually moved away from Mossadegh and collaborated with the Shah. In late February 1953, when the Shah said that due to his differences with Mossadegh, he would leave the country, Mossadegh went to his palace to say good bye. Kashani and Falsafi strongly supported the Shah. Ayatollah Kashani issued an statement stating:

"People, be warned! Treacherous decisions have resulted in the decision of our beloved and democratic (dimukrat) shah to leave the country... You should realize that if the shah goes, whatever we have will go with him. Rise up and stop him, and make him change his mind. Because, today, our existence and independence depend on the very person of His Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and no one else."16

According to one of the foremost experts on the coup, Mark Gasiorowski, who has interviewed the main CIA operatives who conducted the coup: "Two CIA officers involved in the coup told me they delivered ten thousand dollars to Aramesh on the morning of August 19. Neither could confirm that Kashani received this money and used it to organize demonstrations, but both believed he did. One of these officers told me about Jafari’s role. Another CIA officer told me one of Kashani’s sons visited him after the coup to remind him of the role his father had played. Roosevelt confirmed this in my interview with him."17 Ahmad Aramesh was the main contact between Ayatollah Kashani and the CIA.

One of Ayatollah Kashani’s sons was long in contact with the CIA’s operation TPAJAX (the code name of the August coup). In the words of CIA secret history:

"Radio Tehran was a most important target, for its capture not only sealed the success at the capital, but was effective in bringing the provincial cities quickly into line with the new government.... Sheer weight of numbers seemed to have overwhelmed the defenders of the radio station, and after a brief struggle in which three deaths were reported, at 1412 hours the station was in royalist hands. At 1420 hours it broadcast the first word of the success of the royalist effort, including a reading of the firma. A stream of eager speakers came to the microphone. Some represented elements upon whom reliance had been placed in TPAJAX planning, while others were quite unknown to the station. Among the former elements were opposition papers [Bakhtiar and Zelzeleh,] one of [Ayatollah Kashani’s sons,] and [likeh Etozadi.] among spontaneous supporters of the Shah to come to the microphone were Colonel Ali Pahlevan and Major Husand Mirzadian; their presence was the proof – no longer required – of the truth of the TPAJAX assumption that the army would rally to the Shah under just such circumstances."18


In the words of Gasiorowski, "Several days after the coup the British received a report from the Iraqi ambassador in Tehran that the Shah and Zahedi together had visited Kashani, kissed his hands, and thanked him for his help in restoring the monarchy."19 Two weeks after the coup in an interview Kashani said that Musaddiq was guilty of high treason and had to be punished by death.20

Mozaffar Baqai closely collaborated with the CIA, Gen. Zahedi, and Ayatollah Kashani both in preparation for the 1953 coup and afterwards. One of the major actions leading to the coup was the kidnaping, torture and murder of Gen. Afshartoo, Mossadegh’s Chief of National Police. This operation was carried out by Baqai, Gen. Zahedi, and Kashani’s son. In the words of Gasiorowski, "Zahedi, Baqai, and several of their associates (including Kashani’s son) were implicated in the killing, and warrants were issued for their arrest. Kashani, as president of the majles, helped Zahedi avoid arrest by giving him bast, or sanctuary, in the Majles; Baqai was protected by parliamentary immunity."21 According to Akhavi: "Accompanied by some of Musaddiq’s bitterest enemies – Muhammad Zu al-Faqari, Mir Ashrafi, Bahaduri, Ha’irizadeh and Qanatabadi – Kashani told Zahedi: ‘I have given orders that as long as your freedom has not been secured, you will be received here with welcome.’ Then, turning to the commander of the Majles guards, he said: ‘My wish is that as long as General Zahedi abides here, you will take care of our dear guest.’"22

Hassan Ayat was a devotee of Mozaffar Baqai and a member of his inner circle. Ayat, became the foremost theoretician of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP), which was the clerical party that helped consolidate Khomeini’s rule in 1979. Ayat was the secretary of the assembly which wrote the fundamentalist constitution and is believed to be responsible for the principle of velayat faghih, the notion of granting huge powers to a high ranking clergy as the Supreme Leader. After the revolution, Ayat made crude and strange accusations against Mossadegh and his followers, regarding them to be part of Western colonialism’s interests in Iran!23 According to Ayat:

"What we see so clearly in Musaddiq’s path is the manifestation of colonialism. Without any doubt, Musaddiq has been one strong element (of foreign powers) in Iran in the past hundred years... In a careful analysis, the conspiracy of August 1953 wad the defeat of the uprising of our oppressed nation and not the fall of Musaddiq. In this conspiracy, he played his role well and was greatly rewarded for it; imperialism made him a national figure by its widespread propaganda."24

The IRP provided a preface to Ayat’s book attacking Mossadegh in the following words:

"Many political parties and groups whose roots are linked with the obvious and not so obvious agents of Britain and America (e.g., the National Front)... and ten other groups had one thing in common which was their praise for Musaddiq... The martyred Ayat never walked the misguided path of the nationalists. Since his early youth, because of his correct identification of this satanic path and his familiarity with the real character of Musaddiq, Ayat launched a staunch struggle against Musaddiq and his followers."25

Ayat, like other fundamentalist theoreticians, tried to distort the actual history by falsifying the role of the Islamic forces who supported for the coup and instead spread the rumor that Mossadegh himself was part of the CIA conspiracy to overthrow himself. In the words of Rajaee, who has written the most sophisticated review of the works of Ayat and other fundamentalists on this subject: "the work [by Ayat] attempts to reverse the perception of Musaddiq from being the victim of the coup to an agent who contributed to it, and that of Kashani from being a supporter of the coup to its victim."26

Although we do not have any documentary evidence on what then-Hojatolislam Ruhollah Khomeini actually did, we do know that according to his own words published by the regime after the revolution that in 1952-53 period Khomeini opposed Mossadegh. In the official compilation of Khomeini’s words, Khomeini recounts his words in 1953 during the confrontation between Mossadegh and Kashani in the following incendiary words:

"He [Mossadegh] was not a Muslim. On that day, I was in the home of one of the clerics in Tehran when I heard the news that they had put on glasses on a dog and called it ‘Ayatollah’ and walked the dog around Tehran. I told the said cleric that this is not only an opposition to one person. He [Mossadegh] will be slapped in the face. Shortly afterward, that he [Mossadegh] was slapped. And if he [Mossadegh] remained, he would have slapped Islam."27

It is imperative to emphasize that before the revolution, it was not known that Khomeini opposed Mossadegh and was delighted to see him being overthrown. What Khomeini officially acknowledged words after the revolution clearly indicate is that in 1953, Khomeini clearly opposed Mossadegh and wanted him to be overthrown because if he remained in power he would have harmed Islam in Khomeini’s view.

We also know that Khomeini was a top clerk for Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi. We also know that after the coup Khomeini took secret messages from Brujerdi to the Shah.28 According to Ervand Abrahamian, Khomeini "served as Borujerdi’s teaching assistant and personal secretary, at crucial times conveying confidential messages to the shah."29 According to Iranian historian, Nasser Pakdaman, in Persian calender Dey 1331 (January 1953), after Mossadegh cabinet submitted a bill to the parliament granting women the vote, Ayatollah Kashani opposed it. Ruhollah Khomeini gave a sermon in a Qom mosque and called upon the people to go out and protest against Mossadegh’s government and the bill.

The Rooznameh Jomuri Islami, the paper published by the Supreme Leader’s associates, uses Khomeini’s words to attack liberal democrat. The term they use is "melli-garayan" which refers to Mossadegh supporters in the National Front. The term melli-garayan may be translated as nationalists or democrats. The following is from the March 14, 2009 edition of Rooznameh Jomhuri Islami:

"The esteemed Imam [Khomeini] emphasized this reality that ... melli-garayan of today [1981] are same as melli-garayan of yesterday [1951-53] and are a mysterious [or suspicious] pro-Western movement that yesterday and today by appointing itself to the people and popular government has confronted the sacred face of Islam, and with foreign imperialism is confronting the true religion and confronting God’s laws and is struggling to prevent the implementation of Islamic government in Iran has a unified line with the imperialists."30

In the summer of 1981, fundamentalist proposed a terribly reactionary bill of retribution which included a very misogynist interpretation of the Shia Shariah (on testomony before the court, divorce, custody, inheritance) as well as mediaval punishments such as cutting off hands and feet for mere stealing, gouging eyes, lashes for drinking alcohol, stoning for violating sexual laws, blood money, blood money depending on religion and gender of the victim and offender. The National Front issues a long statement presenting a sophisticated critique of these and called upon the people to participate in a march on 25 Khordad 1359 [June 15, 1981]. Khomeini issued a fatwa declaring the National Front an "apostate." Rooznameh Jomuri Islami adds part of Khomeini’s fatwa in its 2009 attack on Mossadegh’s supporters. Rooznameh Jomhuri Islami quotes Khomeini: "These people [members of the National Front] are the remnant of that group that now call inhumane the Qesas [Retribution], this necessary law of Islam."31

Katouzian’s excellent study concludes: "The religious establishment, Kashani and the Fada’iyan-i Islam were thus all united in the support for the coup and Zahedi’s government, although that unity was not to last long."32 In another superb analysis of the period, Shahrough Akhavi concludes: "The clerics finally opposed Musaddiq because they feared republicanism, communism, anticlerical policies, neglect of the clergy and religion in public life... In consequence, the ulama – with some exceptions – supported monarchy, conservative economic values, and respect for Islamic norms, law and institutions in social relations."33

It is imperative to add that only a handful of clerics supported Mossadegh and opposed the coup. They were Ayatollah Abol Fazl Zanjani, his younger brother, Ayatollah Reza Zanjani, and then-hojatolislam Mahmoud Taleghani. After the coup, Taleghani was instrumental in organizing resistence to the coup. After the revolution, Ayatollah Taleghani criticized Kashani for abandoning Mossadegh and supporting the Shah and Gen. Zahedi.34 Taleghani also opposed Khomeini’s notion of velayat faghi during the constitutional assembly. Taleghani maintained cordial relations with the Freedom Movement (liberal Islamist), the National Front (secular liberal democrat), and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (communist Islamist). For a brief period, Taleghani had to go in hiding after his two sons were kidnaped by the fundamentalist coercive apparatus the IRGC. Right before he died an untimely death in 1979, Taleghani publicly warned the people against the emerging clerical dictatorship.

1961-64: U.S.-Imposed Reforms and the Hostility of the Shia Clerical Forces

Khomeini and Islamic fundamentalist forces broke with the Shah and became intensely against Americans due to the reform imposed by the Kennedy administration. These reforms similar to the Alliance for Progress reforms for Latin America was premised on the belief that the main threat to right-wing dictatorship came from communists revolutions. To prevent violent communist revolutions, the Kennedy administration forced its American client regimes to reduce repression and implement social and economic reforms. The Shah initially resisted Kennedy’s pressures. The Shah did not want to alienate two of the three main pillars of his regime: the large landowners and the Shia clerics. The Shah could only count on the subservience of his military and security base. Earlier in 1960, the Shah had allowed very mild land reform bill to be introduced but due to the pressure of Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi, Ayatollah Behbahani, and large landowners in the Majles, the bill was further diluted to a meaningless bill.35

Khomeini’s first major public outcry was against female franchise, land reform (to take land from feudal landlords and religious endowments and distribute them among landless peasants), and changing the law on taking the oath to Qoran with taking the oath to a holy book (to stop legal discrimination against non-Muslim minorities in Iran in securing government jobs)?36 On September 8, 1962, the government of Asadollah Alam published the six-point imperial decree which included land reform and female franchise. Ruhollah Khomeini sends cables to the Shah and to Prime Minister Alam. In his cable to Alam, Khomeini writes:

"Pursuant to my previous cable I beg you to inform you that you pay no heed to the advice of the ulama and that you think you are able to act against the Holy Quran, the constitution, and the general feeling of the population. The ulama advised you that your illegal bill is contrary to Islamic law, the constitution, and the laws of the Majlis. The ulama made it public that women’s franchise and the abrogation of the condition to be a Muslim to be allowed to elect or to be elected is contrary to Islam and the constitution. If you think that you can replace the Holy Quran by the Zoroastrians’ Avesta, the Bible, and by some misguided books, you are mistaken. If you think that may weaken the constitution, which is the security of the country’s sovereignty and independence, with your illegal bill, you are wrong."37

In the words of Willem Floor, "It was with the regard to the introduction of this bill that Ayatollah Khomeini made his first appearance on the national political scene. Khomeini, like his colleagues, was against women’s franchise, and he therefore encouraged public opposition to this bill."38 Due to pressure from clerics, Alam first postpones and then withdraws the bill on December 16, 1962.39

The Shah declares a referendum on the reforms to be held on January 25, 1963, and the declares mass popular support. On February 27, 1963, the Shah announces that women are granted the franchise.

Although paying lip service to rights of the poor, Khomeini explicitly condemns the land reform as against Islam. In his fatwa, Khomeini declares:

"That which is being contemplated for implementation under the label of land reform law is contrary to reason, religion, and the interests of the country and in conflict with Islamic justice and jurisprudence. Although the practice of many large landowners who do not obey the laws of Islam concerning the rights of the poor is contrary to reason, religion, and the interests of the country and in conflict with Islamic justice and jurisprudence, Islam respects the principle of private ownership, and no authority has the right to confiscate someone’s property, or transfer the property to another, without the consent and free will of the owner. Confiscation of property contrary to the desire of the owner is sinful, and no prayer on property confiscated in such a manner is valid or permitted."40

Theology students begin protests in early Marcy. On March 23, 1963 the government attacks the Feziyah seminary school in Qom and kills one theology student. The Shah gave a speech on April 1, 1963 where he criticized the clerics. June 3, 1963 coincided with the 9th day of holy month of Muharram (when Shia mourn the killing of Imam Hussein by the Sunni Yazid). On June 4, or the 10th day of Muharram, which is the anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein and the height of the mourning, the regime arrests Khomeini and Ayatollah Qomi. In the next few days, riots occur in many towns. Fundamentalists claim that 15,000 people were killed by the security forces. The exact numbers are probably a few dozen. By June 9, order is restored by the regime. Fundamentalists regard June 4, 1963 to be the beginning of the fundamentalist movement and the 1979 revolution.

Khomeini calls for the people to go to the streets and oppose the government. The liberal democratic opposition, the Iran National Front, supported the reforms but opposed the continuing dictatorship. The INF’s slogan was: "Reforms, Yes; Dictatorship, No." The fundamentalist opposition had no problem with dictatorship, but opposed the reforms. The Shah successfully puts down the 1963 riots called upon by Khomeini. The Shah puts the members of the INF under mass arrests. It is claimed that about 4,000 members of the INF were put in prison in 1962-64 period.

In 1964, confident that he put down the reactionary resistence by Shia clerics and the liberal middle class opposition, the Shah in a most unwise move signs a status of forces agreement with the U.S. granting full immunity for Americans in Iran from Iranian laws. This law reminiscent to the intensly hated colonial laws imposed on Iran by the Tzarist Russia and the Britain. This law was intensely hated by virtually all Iranians. Similar laws were abolished by the Shah’s father, Reza Shah. Although secret discussion had begun in late 1963, the regime announced on October 13 and 25, 1964 that a bill for diplomatic immunity and priviledges for American military personnel had been approved by the Majles. On October 26, 1964, Khomeini harshly attacks the Shah’s government. Khomeini was arrested the next day. On November 4, 1964, the government announces that Khomeini will be exiled to Turkey. Although Khomeini’s supporters tried to foment riots, nothing major occurs.

Many Islamic fundamentalists and their supporters have successfully used the CIA operations in 1953, which toppled Mohammad Mossadegh to condemn the U.S., an episode which resonates well with the progressives and democratic forces around the world. Only a few scholars, and think tank analysts correctly points out that the fundamentalists use the CIA coup in bad faith. The fundamentalists opposed Mossadegh and collaborated with the CIA in 1953 as well as with the subsequent regime until 1961-63 when the Shah introduced land reform and female enfranchisement under pressure from the Kennedy administration. And the fundamentalist regime has violently repressed Mossadegh’s Iran National Front since 1979.

There has been thus, much confusion on the nature of Islamic fundamentalists. This lack of understanding is especially acute among many on the left, whose anti-Americanism coincided with those of Islamic fundamentalism. But how could a leftist perspective have any ambiguity on a regime that has executed several thousand Iranian Marxists? Or a regime which declared mortad [apostate from Islam] the Iran National Front, the country’s highly respected middle-of-the road social democratic organization founded by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, merely for opposing the imposition of a reactionary interpretation of Shariah [Islamic divine law, which is actually a particular interpretation varying from one denomination to another] making cutting off hands and feet for stealing, a punishment that would primarily harm the destitute?41


Unlike many in the West who are confused about the nature of Islamic fundamentalism, the fundamentalists in Iran are not. One of the most sophisticated fundamentalist perspectives is present by Abdollah Shahbazi.42 Shahbazi is closely connected with the Ministry of Intelligence, and has "written" the memoirs of several political prisoners based on the tapes of their interviews with interrogators of the Ministry of Intelligence during their incarceration. These memoirs include those of Nouraldin Kianouri (Secretary-General of the Tudeh Party) and Gen. Hussein Fardoost (the Shah’s head of Court Intelligence and childhood friend and one of the closest friends and advisors who had apparently betrayed him and worked with the fundamentalist regime). According to Mr. Shahbazi himself, he would provide questions that were put to Kianouri and Kianouri’s "memoir" was created. In 2005, Shahbazi endorsed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for presidency.

Shahbazi argues that factors and events responsible for anti-Americanism among Islamic peoples were: (1) the joint CIA and MI6 coup in July 1952 in Egypt that brought Gen. Mohammad Naguib to power; (2) President Kennedy’s reforms imposed on the shah; (3) the tremendous support that all U.S. administrations have given to Israel, including Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s support for Israel in the Six-day War of 1967.43 In Shahbazi’s words:

"Were not the actions of the government of John Kennedy, which imposed many programs with deep destructive impact on the Iranian society in the decade of the 1960s, this time under the banner of "reforms" and not a "coup," another major event which intensified the anti-American feelings in Iran? Everyone knows that it was this intervention [Kennedy’s reforms] that produced the 15 Khordad 1342 [June 4, 1963] uprisings, and the Islamic Revolution of Iran is the direct effect of that [Kennedy’s reforms]."44

Among the very few in the West who has correctly understood the nature of Islamic fundamentalism is Danny Postel who observes:

"Anti-imperialist pronouncements coming out of Iran thus have a certain resonance for many leftists [in the West].... The problem is that denunciations of US Empire in Iran today are the rhetorical domination of the Right, not the Left. It is the reactionary clergy, not the students, who wield the idiom of anti-imperialism... In contrast, for students, feminists, human rights activists, and dissidents agitating for pluralism and democracy in Iran today, opposition to US imperialism is not the central issue.... It’s not that the students and other reformers in Iran are pro-imperialists. Quite the contrary.... But US imperialism is simply not the central issue for them–and this, I think, is a stumbling block for many American leftists, because it is the central issue for us. We’re better at making sense of situations in which the US Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that. That was the case in Guatemala– as it was in Indochina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and East Timor. But that model simply doesn’t apply to situations in which the struggles of oppressed groups are not aimed directly against American imperialism. And that’s a serious blind spot. It creates myopia on the part of American leftists. Cases that fall outside of its scheme simply get left out, and our solidarity with struggles around the world is determined by George Bush, rather than by our principles.... Think of the thousands of leftists from around the world who went to fight in the Spanish civil war. By the logic of today’s anti-imperialist Left, that cause might not rank very high on a list of political priorities. After all, it wasn’t a struggle against US imperialism. In fact, it wasn’t a struggle against imperialism at all. It was a struggle against fascism..."45

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Why Jebhe Melli and Mossadeghists collaborated against Bakhtiar?

by Azadeh Azad on Mon Mar 16, 2009 01:17 PM PDT

Dear Massoud,

The above question posed by "botshekan" is historically of great importance. I do not share his/her views as explained in the comment, but I notice that you have unfortunately skipped the Bakhtiar period in your informative article. Would you please answer this question here or in a next blog? Thank you.




Why Jebhe Melli and Mossadeghists collaborated against Bakhtiar?

by botshekan. (not verified) on Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:38 AM PDT

Massoud why don't you answer this question first? This is not going to be white washed no matter how much and how long you and the likes of you remain frozen in your coup-ridden mind set. As one other commentator on this site once said: the first coup was staged by Mossadegh who unconstitutionally dissolved the parliament, forced the Shah and his family out of the country and siezed their properties. What followed was a counter coup against the coup staged by Mossadegh and his cronies.

The nation of Iran will never forget or forgive the treacherous Jebhe Melli who, against their leader's secularist doctorine, jumped in the same bed with the mullahs just to enjoy a short-lived romp. The blood of all those who were killed and suffered under this regime will remain on Jebhe Melli's hands forever.

Dr. Strangelove

by Fred on Mon Mar 16, 2009 04:23 AM PDT

The Doc says:

 “In my opinion, we need to read the history exactly as it happened, not the way we would have liked it to happen. That is the only way we can hope to learn from it. “

Great recommendation, alas the Islamist nuke lover does not follow it himself. For instance where he says: 

“Ayatollah Khomeini promised that he would go back to Qom. He did. Only when the "war" between the moderate forces led by Mohandes Bazargan and the right wing started to get out of control, he went back to Tehran. He felt that the Revolution was unravelling as the result of the infighting.”

"He felt” that is not history as it happened, it is justifying what happened by getting into the head of one player, here the maniacal murderous Khomeini.And the job our nuke loving Doc does in absolving his wannabe, the perennially clueless Bazargan, of his share of the crime and the way Khomeini played him in the role of useful idiot is nothing to sneeze at.

And when it comes to justifying the Islamists’ illegal full cycle nuke programs, to no surprise, the nuke lover has number of justification that only his likeminded would comprehend. In one he telepathically gets into whole lot of heads where he says:

They feel that they would not be able to treat the Palestinians the way they are, occupying their land, stealing their resources, creating the largest jail on earth in Gaza, and humiliating Palestinians on a daily basis in the West Bank, or keep occupying the Golan Heights, or invading southern Lebanon whenever they want.”

There are other Islamist defense  in the nuke lover’s apologia that are by now standard M.O. specially the one that tries to absolve their Ebrahim Yazdi and his gang.  

 The piece de resistance shall remain Doc’s previous crux declaration:

“The crux of the issue about Iran's nuclear program is, in my opinion, as follows: If Iran has the ability to make the bomb on a short notice, it becomes unattackable. That is not something that the US and Israel can tolerate. They want to be the hegemone(SIC) of the Middle East. “


Dr. Kazemzadeh

by Mammad on Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:36 PM PDT

While I sympathize with many things that you say in your response to IranDokht, I must also correct you regarding a few issues, and also express my opinion.

1. Ayatollah Khomeini promised that he would go back to Qom. He did. Only when the "war" between the moderate forces led by Mohandes Bazargan and the right wing started to get out of control, he went back to Tehran. He felt that the Revolution was unravelling as the result of the infighting. Although the students who took the US embassy were mostly Islamic leftists, what they did helped overthrow Bazargan's government.

2. He promised a democratic Islamic Republic. The first draft of the Constitution did not have Velaayat-e Faghih in it, and had been drafted after the French Constitution with a strong Prime Minister. Bazargan presented it to Ayatollah Khomeini. He agreed with it and signed off to it, and asked Bazargan to put it in a referendum. Bazargan, out of his honesty and integrity, made a historical mistake. He reminded Ayatollah Khomeini that he had promised that he would form a constitutional assembly to draft it. So, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the formation of that assembly. That became Assembly of Experts. In that Assembly, two groups pushed for VF, not just one. One was the right-wing Rouhaniyat, and one was Hasan Ayat and his group that were followers of Mozaffar Baghaei.

3. Badmouthing Ghotbzadeh and Bani Sadr will not get us anywhere. Ghotbzadeh lost his life after he realized that the system that was taking shape was not not what he had struggled for for decades. Bani Sadr took on some of the Ayatollahs, lost and fled the country. As for Yazdi, he and his group have been opposed to the system, and in particular the VF. You seem to be mad at these people because you seem to think that (I am only guessing) if they had not helped the Ayatollah, the revolution would have taken a different path, or had not occured at all. In my opinion, both are wrong.

4. Fada'eeyan-e Eslam during the era of Dr. Mosaddegh, though similar in some ways to the present right wings, were not the same. Mixing the two is a mistake. In addition, only one faction of the present right-wing has the similarities with the FE. Yes, they may pay lip service to the FE, but they are not the same (even though they both are reactionaries). For example, the Sepah commanders do not think like the FE, and they are a very important part of the power structure in Iran.

5. You seem to blame Ayatollah Khomeini for supporting Ayatollah Kashani, more than Kashani himself. It was Ayatollah Kashani that stabbed Dr. Mosaddegh in the back, not Ayatollah Khomeini. The latter was a junior cleric at that time. Of course, it is really bad the the latter supported the former for what he had done. But, in practical terms, it means nothing. Plus, that was another one of many of Ayatollah Khomeini's contradictory positions. how can somebody be so vehemently opposed to the Shah, but support Ayatollah Kashani, and criticize Dr. Mosaddegh? 

In my opinion, we need to read the history exactly as it happened, not the way we would have liked it to happen. That is the only way we can hope to learn from it.

As for your solution for getting out of the present impass:

1. Some people like you advocate sanctions, by saying that they are opposed to attacking Iran. In my opinion, sanctions ARE low-intensity war. The UN statistics show that sanctions against Iraq killed at least 500,000 Iraqi children. The number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the invasion ranges anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million, which is completely comparable with the sanctions' casualties.

2. You are wrong about sanctions and the apartheid regime. The AR was defeated not because of the sanctions, but because the white minority decided that if the AR continues, the armed struggle will destroy its economic power. This is not just my opinion, but that of many who have studied this in detail. The whites gave up the political power, but preserve their economic power, which is perhaps even more important. Many studies indicate that sanctions played a minor role in the overthrow of the AR. This is particularly true because the U.S. was not really supporting the sanctions, even though the rest of the world did more or less. Led by Chester Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, the Reagan administration strongly opposed the sanctions, and led what it called "constructive engagement."

Regarding Israel and Iran's non-existent bomb:

In my opinion, you are wrong. Many Israeli leaders, including Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, and others have said that (even) if Iran makes the bomb, it would not pose an existential threat to Israel. Just google it with these same words to find it. In my opinion, Israel is opposed to this because,

1. They feel that they would not be able to treat the Palestinians the way they are, occupying their land, stealing their resources, creating the largest jail on earth in Gaza, and humiliating Palestinians on a daily basis in the West Bank, or keep occupying the Golan Heights, or invading southern Lebanon whenever they want.

2. But, the most important reason Israel is opposed to this is, in my opinion, as follows. An Iran armed with the bomb, or being in a position to make it, would reverse immigration to Israel. Many will leave. The psychological effects will be too strong. Under such conditions, Israel will not be sustainable. So, one may say that this is the same as an existential threat, which may very well be, but not in the physical/Holocaust type of way.



Economic Sanctions will help no one

by Q on Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:34 PM PDT

I'm disappointed that you can't see that the Taliban element of the IRI is waiting for just such a chance to take out their rivals and make it a true dictatorship.

I'm also disappointed that you don't understand the nationalistic support currently enjoyed by the IRI, and the increase of this support with every unjust action pushed by US and Israel. No matter what the US does now, it will be seen as an Israeli move. And you damn well know that no REAL sanctions will be enforced unless US does serious arm-twisting.

Anyway, I hope you realize, especially after what happened to Iraq (also started with sanctions) that supporting sanctions against Iran is a non-starter with most Iranians. You may not believe it, but it's a fact.

You are missing an improtant point in your book thesis. As ID said, the religious establishment was no fan of secularism and that was not a secret to anyone. But both Kashani and Khomeini were staunch anti-Imperialists and the former had been exiled before by the British. However, Kashani would never gone as far as to "support" the coup without the millions of dollars that Kermit Roosevelt spent paying mobs to assault clerics and saying, the attackers were Mossadegh supporters.

You want to say Khomeini was against Mossadegh, but your thesis fails because no one knew about the US-funded propaganda campaign against Mossadegh.

The sociological test is how was Kashani (and by extension Khomeini) feeling about Mossadegh before US/British got involved and the true answer is that they were both supporters and enthusastic backers of nationalization.



by Masoud Kazemzadeh on Sun Mar 15, 2009 09:00 PM PDT

Iran Dokht jaan,

The answer is that JM, PMOI, and leftists did NOT know that Khomeini was a supporter of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, and Kashani. That Khomeini hated Mossadegh. They assumed that Khomeini was traditional and had a few minor conservative values like most clerics.

Khomeini consistently LIED. Khomeini surrounded himself by the likes of Yazdi, and Ghotbzadeh, and Bani Sadr. So, a lot of people were mislead.

Khomeini explicitly said that he does not want to be the leader, that he would go to Qom and be engaged in his religious activities at masjid and hozeh. Khomeini did not say that he will be Supreme Leader, all papers will be censored, women have to wear hijab, etc.


The fight between JM and the fundamentalist regime is a fight between those who want a democratic secular republic and those who want to continue this fascistic regime.

In 1978-79, I, too, was a teenager.


What the passages of my book show is that Islamic fundamentalist forces collaborated with CIA, Gen. Zahedi, and Shah, before, during and after the coup. The fundamentalist LIE about their origins of their hostility to the US in order to fool and deceive young Iranians. Unfortunately, many are suffering from historical amnesia and lack of knowledge of our history.

Anyone promoting support or appeasement of the ultra right wing fundamentalist regime is helping this regime. The question is how to send this fascistic regime to the garbage can of history. There are many opposition groups promoting various methods of struggles and policies. I leave that to each person to decide what group or what policy they like.

I can tell you what the JM promote.

And I can tell you what I promote; which is not always what the JM’s policy is. For example, JM does not promote economic sanctions. I strongly promote sanctions like those imposed on the apartheid regime in South Africa which were promoted by Nelson Mandela and the ANC.

I welcome anyone who has a better policy to end this nightmarish regime.

About 1 minute before I checked this site, I finished an op-ed on what should be done to prevent an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran. Let me be honest: I find many of the posters in this site stupid and childish. They think that if they say Israel does not dare attack Iran, then Israel will be afraid and would not attack. I read more hysterical and emotional and illogical stuff here than sane and rational writings. Let me state this as simply and explicitly as possible:

If nothing changes in the next several months, Israel will attack nuclear sites. If the terrorist regime retaliated with chemical bombs, what do you think Israel will do? They will use nuclear weapons.

 It is immaterial whether in fact the terrorist regime has a clandestine nuclear weapons program or will get nuclear weapons, or if it did it will use them to annihlate Israel. PERCEPTIONS of reality determine behavior. The PERCEPTIONS of Israelis is that the terrorist regime is developing nukes, and that they cannot be deterred and that they will use it to regime eshghalgar zionisti az safhe jahan mahv shavad.

You put yourself in the shoes of Israelis. About 5 to 6 million of their parents and grandparents and kin were mass murdered. The regime’s official slogan is "Marg bar Israel." The regime gives weapons to groups that kill Israelis. The regime actively undemines those Palestinians that want to reach the two-state solution. The regime’s ideology is shehadat-talabi and Imam Zamani and Jihadi. If YOU were in Israel, would you wait and see whether or not the fundamentalist terrorists who have no problems whatsoever in mass murdering their own people would do what they say and say they believe?

In my analysis that Israel will bomb the nuclear facilities. I have no idea what the hell the fundamentalist terrorist regime would do.

The solution I offer in my op-ed is UN Security Council sanctions on purchase of crude oil and natural gas and sale of refined petrolium. My hope is that this would result in substantial weakening of the terrorist regime, they enabling and empowering the Iranian people to overthrow the regime ourselves.

If YOU have a policy that has a better chance of success, please offer it. If we do not do what my policy proposal is, then the only outcome will be Israeli strikes. Putting one’s head in the sand (or snow) and cussing Zionists, and neo-cons, and this or that will NOT help and iota with the situation.

We can jump up and down until we are blue in the face, that will NOT prevent the Israelis government from doing what they think is in their SURVIVAL.


Merely jumping up and down, and cussing Israel will in actual fact result in Israeli military strikes with possible horrible results. But doing what I propose (UNSC economic sanctions) has a good chance of getting rid of the fascist fundamentalist terrorist regime and thus help the Iranian people to establish freedom, democracy and human rights, and maintain our independence.

What you suggest will result in Israeli attacks. What I suggest will (more likely than not) result in democracy and freedom.

 I hope this is helpful.

Best regards,


 Sorry for the typos


Dear Masoud

by IRANdokht on Sun Mar 15, 2009 07:41 PM PDT

I have a 31 year old question to ask.

Didn't we all know that Khomeini was not a fan of Dr Mossadegh, Dr Shariati, and communism even 31 years ago?

Why did the JM, MKO and all the left allow this man to take power? Why didn't they stop him from hijacking the revolution? Why did they turn their back to their own ideals and follow a vengeful, hateful and insane man?

I was a teenager then and I kept asking myself this question. Why did a teenager see what's going on and so many intellectuals and educated folks who were much savvier in the matters of politics didn't?

The end doesn't and should not justify the means. Just like today, the removal of this regime doesn't justify shaking the hand of the powers who are advocating military action and economical sanctions against Iranians. 

I hope for a free and secular Iran. Hopefully we all learn from the lessons of the past and do not help replacing a foreign and cruel mindset with military occupants.

Best wishes for a prosperous, peaceful and happy new year.


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