Insulting Iran’s Intelligence

The architects of US foreign policy have officially run out of ideas in their quest to overthrow the Iranian government. Rather than holding off on another regime change attempt until they can cobble together a new plan of action, however, they’ve decided to insult the intelligence of the Iranian people by reheating 2009’s leftovers and trying to pass them off as a genuine revolution. Fool me once — 1953’s CIA-sponsored overthrow of democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh — shame on you. Fool me twice — 2009’s failed “Green Revolution” intended to unseat President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, backed by the US State Department — shame on me (and a hint: don’t call it a ‘revolution’ until it succeeds or you might end up with geostrategic egg on your face). Fool me three times — you must think I’m a damn fool, or that Iranians are damn fools. Is the Trump regime offering Iran a political Groundhog Day scenario, a chance to “do it right” this time that the ghosts of strongmen past would surely kill for? Too bad Iran made the right choice in suppressing the State Department-backed Greens in 2009 and doesn’t need our charity wormhole. Yet Trump, Nikki Haley and their band of merry neoconservative revenants tell Americans to line up once again to be spoon-fed propaganda about the Iranian people taking to the streets clamoring for “democracy,” that elusive utopian substance that only the US in its great hegemonic mercy (hegemercy?) can bestow upon a nation. But we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends. Subjecting Iran to the US’s geostrategic reruns is the ultimate insult-plus-injury. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, those responsible for this “zombie revolution” should be permanently entombed in padded rooms where they can no longer harm vulnerable nations.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley glowed with conviction as she quoted anti-government slogans that had supposedly come from “the brave people of Iran,” addressing reporters at her first press conference of 2018. Throwing off the shackles of truth that morally bind most officials at such events, she claimed anti-regime protests were taking place “in every city” in Iran, adding that dozens of protesters had been killed and hundreds arrested in response to the demonstrations, which as “we all know” are 100% spontaneous and not sponsored by Iran’s enemies at all. All we “know” from listening to Haley is that she either lacks basic understanding of geography and mathematics — the death toll including police and military had just cracked 20 when she spoke on Tuesday, and the protests are primarily economic in nature, with anti-regime demonstrations remaining extremely rare — or she’s a skilled liar accustomed to burying truth in the service of her masters’ ideology and equally adept at passing for a harmless if hawkish bimbo. Since her 2016 appointment, Haley has focused on lying the US into war with Iran, with a few attacks on North Korea and Palestine sprinkled in for variety’s sake. Last year, she threatened the Iranian government with military retaliation after the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack in Syria, blaming the actual attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but inviting Russia and Iran to share in the complicity should another chemical attack occur on her watch — essentially inviting the real perpetrators of the first two attacks, false flags intended to goad the US into taking out Assad, back for an encore. Last month, she boasted of “undeniable” evidence that Iran was supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels with weapons, specifically the long-range ballistic missile that was fired at Saudi Arabia on November 4, stitching together her so-called proof from a Saudi Arabian government statement (why would they lie about something like that?!) and a UN report that actually stated there was no conclusive evidence Iran had armed the Houthis. Speaking to the UN Security Council yesterday, she held her belligerent line, putting the regime “on notice” for nonspecific human rights violations, but retreated from her earlier lies, aware that a room full of geopolitical experts might reject such clear-cut falsehoods. Haley, then, is not a fool, but a dedicated ideological servant of the neocon powers pulling the strings in Washington. Truth, as they say, is the first casualty of war, and when your foreign policy consists of all war, all the time, there are a lot of truths to bury.

Haley has remained silent on the crimes perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen in a war that has left millions on the brink of starvation, adhering to the official US policy of ignoring the atrocities our allies commit with the weapons we’ve sold them. Singling out Iran for the minimal support it has provided the Houthi rebels while allowing Saudi war crimes to go unquestioned epitomizes the hypocrisy of American foreign policy — Haley loves to wax poetic about the Iranian government’s human rights violations, yet sees no need to remark on the plight of the Palestinians kept in what is essentially an open-air apartheid prison in Gaza. She frequently parrots the claim that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, a beloved falsehood echoed by every administration since Clinton which represents an egregious case of projection by the country that brought the world al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran, as a Shia country, is the mortal enemy of the extremist Sunni groups that commit almost all Islamic terror acts worldwide, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that was pinned on Hezbollah and earned Iran the top-terror-sponsor designation was actually an al-Qaeda (Sunni) operation. Facts have never stood between the US government and its wars, however; indeed, most of the wars ever fought with US troops involved some degree of trickery to launch, even though the barriers to entry have declined to the point where a president no longer even needs congressional approval. When Trump declined to recertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) in October, he managed to blame Iran for almost every regional catastrophe in the last quarter-century. Kicking off with the terror-sponsor myth, he also accused the regime of harboring al-Qaeda terrorists, perpetuating the war in Yemen, enabling Assad in the gassing of Syrian civilians, killing US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and probably kicking a puppy or two. Untrue as these smears are, Trump is threatening to allow sanctions relief to lapse when the renewal bill crosses his desk next week. If he fails to sign, the US becomes noncompliant with the JCPOA, theoretically freeing Iran to return to enriching uranium. Such a move could be interpreted by the neocons who control the US war machine as a hostile gesture, sparking the regime-change war they’ve been dreaming of for decades — at least since Iran made the Project for a New American Century’s hit list in 2001. One can already hear the PNAC alumni’s salivary glands working overtime as they contemplate finally getting their Iran war.

The Trump regime’s cries of lust for Iranian blood have so far fallen on the deaf ears of a war-weary US populace unwilling to support yet another expensive regime-change invasion and an international community which has not forgotten how such arrogant world-policing aggression turned Iraq and Libya into failed states and all but shredded Syria. Haley’s recent speeches failed to hook allies at the UN, while Trump continues to be criticized for his efforts to tank the JCPOA. A more nuanced approach to regime change seems to be necessary at this point, barring an 11th hour false flag deus ex machina on the order of September 11th. As I’ve outlined before, in the playbook of institutionalized bullying that passes for US policy, when your overt attempt at regime change fails (or you can’t lie your way into war to begin with), the next step is to start a Gene Sharp-style “color revolution.” The script is a cliche by now, but we seem to be unable to break out of this big-budget tentpole production and its endless string of sequels. As in Hollywood, so in Washington.

Color revolutions involve uniting disparate protest groups — ethnic or religious minorities, students, poor people, or other marginalized populations — and turning them against the ruling regime. The protesters may not initially be opposed to the regime as such — they may be protesting income inequality, or police brutality, or another issue the resolution of which does not require the overthrow of their government — but the (successful) color revolution always ends in regime change. In most cases, the protesters’ initial grievances remain unaddressed, and the new regime takes on many characteristics of the old, though marked by a closer geopolitical alliance with the US or whatever hegemonic power is pulling the strings of the “revolution.” The trick of pulling off a successful color revolution lies in nurturing and harnessing the protest energy of marginalized groups airing genuine grievances and drawing on grassroots support, then shaping and redirecting that “people power” to topple the regime. Here, media coverage becomes extremely important. Foreign media paint the protesters as freedom fighters bravely combating a corrupt, despotic regime and play up any government or police response to the protests, especially if the crackdown is violent. The protesters, encouraged by the supportive coverage, redouble their efforts, adding “violent police crackdowns” to their list of grievances, and the regime intensifies the crackdown, a move interpreted by the media as a sign the government is worried about losing control of its people; emboldened by the good news, the protesters expand the movement, and so on, creating a self-perpetuating feedback loop building toward an explosive shift in power. If no violent crackdown is forthcoming, the media is not above inventing one, or sending in US-trained death squads to fire into both sides of a confrontation, as recently occurred in Maidan Square in Ukraine and was a staple of 1980s and 1970s South and Central American coups.

Who knew everyone in Iran spoke English?

In 2009, the Iranian “green movement” contested the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won a second term with a landslide two-thirds majority, defeating “reform” candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The greens took to the streets by the thousands to protest the legitimacy of the election and were cheered on by western media, which considered Ahmadinejad the preeminent regional bogeyman for his remarks about the Holocaust and Israel. The Iranian government quashed the movement within a year, claiming it was being directed by the US. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later admitted that the State Department had a role in “supporting” the uprising, which memorably featured protesters holding signs reading “Where is my vote?” in English, among other tells. US and allied media have painted the latest round of protests as a resurgence of the Greens, but the reality is more complicated, with legitimate if apolitical grassroots protests being recast by our illegitimate media as the spark inciting an astroturfed “revolution” meant to topple the Iranian government. The “greens” never really went away, with Mousavi and his fellow reformists reinventing themselves as the Green Path of Hope to continue their reformist work on a campaign basis without operating as a political party and drawing flak from the regime, but they are not involved in the current protests, which stem from mostly apolitical citizens airing economic grievances.

A 2009 Brookings Institution report concluded that a color revolution was the US’s best bet for solving its Iran problems at a “bearable” cost, compared to proxy terrorism, “limited airstrikes,” direct military invasion, and fomenting violent unrest. Surely it’s just a coincidence that the Green Movement, seemingly made to order to Brookings’ specifications, materialized that same year. The report bristles with arrogant reality-averse proclamations that would land any sub-hegemon in geopolitical time-out but which go unchallenged coming from the good ol’ US. Starting from the flawed premise that the US must “do something” about Iran, it then ponders “whether the United States should be willing to accept the Islamic Republic at all.” Iran is once again tarred as a major state sponsor of terrorism, though the writers are able to provide only one instance (a 1992 assassination in a Berlin restaurant) that could provably be traced back to the regime; all other examples are merely “widely believed” to be state-sponsored. The report does not mention among what population these beliefs are widely held, but one could conclude it is the same population comprising the majority of the members of think tanks like Brookings. The writers bring up implausible scenario after implausible scenario, only to reluctantly admit their implausibility before moving on to the next scare (the Iranian government will give nukes to terrorists! The Iranian government will nuke the US even though the US has enough nukes to flatten Iran! The Iranian government is run by religious zealots willing to destroy their own country in order to bring down their enemies! Actually, the last one sounds like Israel and its Samson Option, though like most US policy documents the paper tiptoes around the matter of Israel’s nuclear stockpile). Different groups’ revolutionary potential is evaluated — student groups, while ideal foot-soldiers for a protest movement, are deemed too likely to be infiltrated by regime agents, while “civil society organizations” stink so heavily of US involvement that even pro-reform Iranians won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. “Reformers” are the logical choice. Cue the “green movement” and its champion, the “reformist” Mousavi.

Now, weeks after the Israeli and US governments devised a joint plan to “counter Iranian activity in the Middle East” and days before Trump is supposed to re-authorize the repeal of sanctions, Iranians are once again taking to the streets. Protesters initially turned out to demonstrate against high unemployment, rising food prices, inflation, and other economic issues. These grievances have been acknowledged and responded to by regime figures, who have proposed new policies and programs in dialogue with the protesters as part of efforts to de-escalate the demonstrations. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly declared he shares protesters’ concerns regarding inflation. Negotiations are ongoing, but because peaceful grievance resolution never sparked a revolution, foreign media coverage depicts the protesters metamorphosing from nonpartisans demanding economic justice into “reformists” protesting Iran’s foreign policy (where it clashes with Israeli and US interests) and demanding both Ayatollah Khamenei and Rouhani step down. In reality, many protesters favor the Ahmadinejad-era policies (including price controls and subsidized goods) that helped heal an economy damaged by western-imposed sanctions, countering the narrative that Iranians are clamoring for regime change or otherwise taking up the mantle of the 2009 anti-Ahmadinejad “greens.” Reports from the ground suggest that small groups are hijacking the economic protests, yelling unrelated anti-government slogans which are then quoted in foreign media. The neocon-bots at Foreign Policy highlight a couple of protesters chanting “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran!” in a larger crowd demonstrating against high food prices, calling the whole thing a backlash against Iranian “expansionism,” but even they admit the protests are ultimately rooted in “economic complaints.” The BBC acknowledges that many economic protesters left rallies after small groups of interlopers showed up and started chanting anti-regime slogans. Twitter accounts purportedly belonging to Iranian protesters post old footage as current events, breathlessly railing against a draconian crackdown that has not occurred.

What violence has accompanied the protests reeks of US involvement, echoing previous color revolutions (attempted or successful) in Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine. Rouhani has openly condemned the “foreign elements” driving the violence, claiming a “small and minority group” is responsible for the rioting, shooting, and other criminal behavior. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani calls it a “proxy war” being waged on the streets and on the internet by Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the US and points out that 27% of the anti-government hashtags trending on social media originate with the Saudi government. The crackdown began only after gun-toting “protesters” shot a policeman, but the regime’s response has received much more coverage than the initial shooting. While the economic demonstrations have been peaceful, agents provocateurs continue their efforts to provoke police assigned to supervise the protests, seeking to trigger the crackdown their Twitter counterparts claim is already occurring.

Iran has not started a war in over a century, and the military and financial assistance it provides to allies like Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen is minuscule compared to the amounts funneled into Israel and Saudi Arabia by the US. Nevertheless, Foreign Policy expects its readers to believe Iranian protesters have taken to the streets to demand an answer to “why their money is spent in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.” Western media stoke fears of a regional alliance between Iran and its neighbors, though why an alliance on the other side of the world between countries with no history of territorial aggression should keep Americans up at night is never satisfactorily explained. If anything, it is the mafiaesque swagger of the Israeli regime, with its brazen land-grabbing, flouting of international law, and flagrant disregard for the human rights of non-Israelis — all backed by a nebulous uncatalogued nuclear arsenal — that should worry us. The “Samson option,” named for the biblical character who brought down the temple over his own head in order to annihilate his enemies, is the ultimate geopolitical temper tantrum — facing certain destruction, Israel would rather nuke the planet than allow itself the ignominy of defeat. When such psychosis is official foreign policy, one must expect international repercussions. The surprising results of last month’s UN vote on Trump’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in which even US lackeys UK and Australia voted to abstain rather than stand with Trump and Israel in defiance of international law, revealed just how alone the rogue nation is. Even most US citizens, despite their government’s slavish devotion to Israeli primacy, oppose moving the embassy. Iran does not have a “Samson option.” It does not have an expansionist foreign policy or a history of aggression. It is not a threat to the United States, its people or its government. There is no legitimate reason to meddle in its affairs. Indeed, if the shoe were on the other foot and Iranians were trying to incite a revolution in the US, it would be considered an act of war.

American foreign policy, with its reliance on regime change and military intervention, has few alternatives at hand when one course of action fails. Accordingly, our motto has become “if at first you don’t succeed, try the same thing again a few years later, and hope no one remembers your failure.” The latest Iranian uprising narrative — as depicted in US and allied media, at least — bristles with indications of a US-sponsored color revolution. A rash of legitimate economic protests has been twisted into an anemic echo of 2009’s Green Movement by unscrupulous policymakers desperate for war at any cost. Let’s hope the Iranians quickly put our goons in their place while doing the right thing for their people economically and socially. This is not to say that the Iranian regime is not deeply flawed, or there are not Iranians who long for democracy. There are US citizens who long for democracy as well. We’ll see who gets it first. Until then, we must ask our government — do they really think Iranians are dumb enough to fall for the exact same trick they tried nine years ago? Do they think we’re dumb enough to believe they’ll fall for it? Or have they ceased to care? Absolute power does not require the consent of the governed, and calling the US a democracy does not make it one. Before we blindly cheer on yet another dodgy color revolution with the potential to plunge Iran into failed-state hell, we should get our own house in order.