A Brief History of Persia
Iran seems to always be the target of Western ire, but what is really behind all this? Is the current Ayatollah-led government really as crazy and dangerous as they’re made out to be? Lets explore Western-Iranian relations in the last century, and see how deep this rabbit hole goes. Does the propaganda against Iran stack up with history?
Persia, or Iran as it was known since 1935, is one of the great civilisations of the world. Rarely has a civilisation produced a magnanimous leader as Cyrus the Great, who is credited for creating the first human rights charter in the world, the ‘Cyrus Cylinder’, outlining how subjects should be treated with dignity during war, and promoting tolerance of other belief systems, – alien notions during such a ferocious time in history. He was a man far ahead of his time, even being called a messiah by the Jews for having allowed them to rebuild their second temple.
The Persian empire reached its peak under Darius, another great leader, circa 500BC. He built the world’s first courier service and highway, known as the ‘Royal Road’, connecting Susa in Persia with Sardis in Anatolia. The Persians ruled the greatest empire in the known world, connecting Egypt, Thrace, Anatolia, the Levant, Arabia, Bactria and the Hindu Kush. However, the empire gave way to an epic round of defeats by the Greeks, in a string of legendary battles such as Salamis, Thermophylae, Marathon and Gaugemela. The Persians took war to the Greeks, a rising power in the West, and beckoned ruin in return, culminating with Alexander the Great’s ultimate conquest and arson of Persepolis in 330BC. Persian horseback-chariot technology, which was the technological vanguard of the Persian army, was rendered useless by the new Greek innovation of the Phalanx. Thus, the eastern chariot died and the western phalanx was born, which the Romans would later inherit as the Legions.
Known for the fiery religion of Zoroaster, Persian Zoroastrian tradition stems from its proximity with Indian Hinduism, dating back to 2000BC, and lasting up until the Persian Sassanian empire was overthrown by the rise of Arabian Islam, during the first Caliphate, the Rashidouns, in 651AD. Islam was introduced to Persia by the Arabs and embraced by the population, but not long afterwards, the fiercely independent Persians split from the majority of Sunni Muslims into a branch known as Shia Islam. The reason was over the successor to Muhammad, or Caliph. When Muhammad died, he did not leave behind a plan of succession, instead leaving the decision to his followers. The seeds of Islam’s civil war were born, with the Sunnis favouring Muhammad’s most righteous follower, Abu Bakr as rightful Caliph, while the Shi’ites favoured someone from his bloodline instead, his cousin Ali as Imam, the Shia version of Caliph. This disagreement culminated with the Sunni Umayyad Caliph brutally martyring Ali’s son, Hussein, in the iconic battle of Kerbala, which is mourned by Shia Muslims all over the world in the Ashura memorial. This event is deeply ingrained in Shia consciousness, giving rise to eternal suspicion of Sunni power. The Shia thus see themselves as victims to Sunni oppression, giving rise to a powerful ‘martyr mentality’, which to this day inspires Shi’ites to fight back against various Sunni extremist groups supported by the West and Saudi Arabia.
Persia, and nearby Baghdad, became the centres of the Islamic golden age during 800-1100AD. Art and science flourished, and many well known Persians, who commonly adopted Arabic names, such as Abu Jaafar Mohammad Ibn Mousa Al Khwarizmi (the father of Algebra), Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (or Avicenna, the father of modern medicine), Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī (or Razes, who invented Alcohol and Sulphuric acid), Rumi (the poet) and many others, made significant contributions to humanity. Chess was also thought to have originated in pre-Islamic Persia.
Around the same time, hordes of Turkic tribes were moving through the region from central Asia, and Persia fell away from the then weakened Abbasid Islamic Caliphate and was taken over by the Seljuk Turks. This gave way to another Turko-Persian empire, Khwarezmia, around 1200AD. When Baghdad and the Khwarezmian empire were razed to the ground by the invading Mongol hordes in 1220AD, the Ilkhanate was installed, a pro-Mongol Muslim government in Persia. When the Mongol empire retreated, the Timurids, a Turko-Mongol tribe intent on restoring Mongol power again, succeeded in ruling Persia within the period 1400-1500AD. After the chaotic vicissitudes of various power struggles, the rise of two major power blocs began to shape the region more permanently – the Safavids in Azerbaijan and the Ottomans in Turkey. The Safavid dynasty brought back Persian identity, influence back to the Caucuses, and resisted Ottoman power. The Safavids were regarded as the beginnings of the modern Persian state, under a Shah dynastic system.
The clash with Anglo-American power
Persian influence in the Caucuses was eventually challenged by the empire of Russ in the north, and after a series of wars in the early 19th century, the Russian Tsars gained a foothold in the Caucuses while the Safavids retreated south. In the next hundred years, the Ottoman Caliphate slowly crumbled, and various European imperialist nation-states like Germany, France, England, Prussia and Austria-Hungary were clashing in Europe and setting the stage for major wars that would spill over into Ottoman territories. As the final nails in the coffin of the Ottoman empire were getting hammered just before and during WWI, as the Ottomans committed atrocities against Armenians and sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Anglo-French interest in the Middle East began to take shape. In 1908, the first oil to be discovered in the Middle East was in Iran, by the Anglo-Persian oil company. The company attempted to force Iran to accept terms much favourable to British interests. This set the tone for Anglo-Persian relations and attitudes in the coming century.
During the Great War, sensing the inevitable defeat of the Ottomans, the Sykes-Picot agreement was made in secret between the British and French, with implicit support from the Russian Tsar, who was tempted with a portion of influence in Turkey, Armenia and Iraq, if he played along and didn’t challenge Anglo-French attempts at dividing up the Ottoman empire amongst themselves. France would retain influence in Syria, Lebanon and portions of northern Iraq and Turkey, while the British would retain influence in Jordan, Palestine and southern Iraq (oil rich Basra). Of course, while this was being planned, Lawrence of Arabia would be busy galvanising Arabian tribes against the Ottomans and making false promises of independence to them while the British government schemed with France behind their backs. In addition to this, the British made the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and promised Zionists to help them establish a homeland in Palestine. The term ‘Anglo-Zionist’ was thus born with the Balfour Declaration.
In 1917, a tumultuous event occurred in Russia, with the sudden overthrow of the Tsar by the Bolshevik revolution lead by Vladimir Lenin. It was in the aftermath of the revolution that a very important item of history has been overlooked. Lenin found the Sykes-Picot agreement in the Tsar’s drawers, and after learning about the plot, the anti-imperialist leaked the plot to the whole world, giving away the Anglo-French plan and making it public. The British and French were furious at the new socialist Soviet government and considered it betrayal. This mistrust set the stage for Anglo-Russian relations and attitudes in the coming century.
The war ended with resurgent Germany’s defeat, the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the balkanisation of the Ottoman empire with the Treaties of Sevres and Lausanne, and the abolition of the Caliphate in 1922 by Kemal Attaturk, the pro-Western secularist put in charge of Turkey. The Treaty of Sevres of 1920 established the post-Ottoman political landscape in the Middle East, including a small Kurdistan to be established within Turkish Anatolia. However, this treaty was re-negotiated and abrogated by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. This subsequent treaty preserved some Turkish territorial integrity in return for Turkey ceding most of its former territories, and dashed the hopes of an independent Kurdistan ever being established. This treaty set the tone for Turkish-Kurdish relations and attitudes in the coming century.
Amidst all this tumult, Iran managed to stay relatively neutral during the course of the war, however, it inevitably fell into Ottoman, British and Russian sights. The Ottomans were fighting Britain and Russia in the war, and Iran became a theatre of struggle. After the Ottomans were routed, Persia fell under the influence of Russia and Britain. But British interest in Persia persisted, with Britain trying to negotiate oil concessions with an increasingly frustrated Persian government lead by Reza Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, who saw British attempts as imperial and unfair to Persian national interests. In 1933, the Anglo-Persian oil company tried re-negotiating a better oil concession due to Persian pressure, but did not fulfil its end of the deal to Pahlavi’s satisfaction. In 1935, Persia changed its name to Iran to court the Germans by appealing to its Aryan roots, sensing hostility from the British. In 1941 with WWII in full swing, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, the more pliable Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, by joint British-Soviet pressure due to Iran’s importance as a supply route against the Germans.
Once WWII ended, the tide of the war swung to the victors of the war, America and the Soviet Union. Britain and France were exhausted and began to lose power with the subsequent independence of their colonies, and Britain passed the baton of the Anglo empire to America. America, having inherited the bulk of Nazi Germany’s top scientists and engineers, began to develop powerful technology and sensed a growing urge to expand and secure its empire. The USSR became the eastern bulwark against Anglo-American expansion, making the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance with eastern European buffer states on its sensitive western borders, where Germany previously tried to invade.
In 1951, Mohammed Mossadegh was elected as Prime Minister of Iran. He was very popular and favoured nationalising Iranian oil and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company by way of parliamentary vote. He was ousted during a CIA/MI6 sponsored coup in 1953 by the US, the first official coup conducted and Mohammed Reza Pahlavi consolidated his power by crushing all dissent with the brutal SAVAK internal security forces. In 1954, Anglo-Persian Oil Company was renamed to BP – British Petroleum and the oil began to flow.
The Shah became a puppet of the US and increasingly totalitarian. Inflation wrecked the economy in the 1970s due to oil prices increasing, and in 1979, the Shah was deposed by a popular “Islamic Revolution” lead by an exiled religious figure, Rudollah Khomenei, who became the first Ayatollah of the new government. This sparked outrage in the US, the relations between independent Iran and angry America deteriorated thereafter. The US hostage crisis followed, when students of the revolution seized US diplomats, for having supported the draconian Shah. In 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, fully backed by the US with weapons. This indecisive war dragged on for 10 years, killing over a million on both sides.
In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War and took sides overtly, with Ariel Sharon supporting militant Maronite Christian “Phalange” groups in what would be known as the Sabra and Shatila massacre committed against mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shi’ites. With these injustices perpetrated against Shi’ites, Hezbollah was founded soon after, between 1982 and 1985, backed by Iran, to push back against Israeli oppression and occupation and protect Lebanese Shi’ite communities. Hezbollah, and Iranian influence, grew in Lebanon, providing a deterrent against Israeli aggression against Lebanon. The 1983 Beirut Bombings struck US and French forces in Lebanon, expediting their withdrawal from Lebanon. Iran had the deadly ability to strike back against attempts to suppress Shia interests, in an increasingly pro-Saudi, Israeli and US Lebanese government, which was unable to protect all Lebanese citizens.
In 1988, an Iranian airliner was shot down by ‘accident’ over the Persian Gulf by US missiles. This only served to embitter relations between the US and Iran and nobody really knows whether this was an accident at all.
Saudi and Israeli Paranoia and US Inabilities to Grasp Its Impact In The Relationship
After September 11, the US either fell into the trap set by the Saudis to get dragged into conflict or willingly followed through with a plan to re-define the map in the Middle East for Neocons and Zionists. In 2002, a CIA backed Iranian socialist terrorist group that supports regime change, the MEK, released knowledge of an Iranian nuclear program to the world, and soon after, Iran made it onto Bush’s “axis of evil” club in the State of the Union Speech of 2002. In the days of the Shah, the US helped Iran develop nuclear technology, and this program was quietly continued by the Ayatollahs. Somewhere along the way, the Iranians decided to take out nuclear insurance against regime change, and the program was especially accelerated in the wake of US regime change and war-mongering in two of Iran’s neighbours – Iraq and Afghanistan. It is worth noting that in 2002, the Iranians sent a memo to George Bush, offering to give up their nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees. Bush rejected the deal.
Things got worse. After the illegal invasion of Iraq based on lies, Iran found itself in the ascendency in Iraq. This was solely due to American mistakes, having disbanded the Iraqi army in 2004, the interim government headed by Paul Bremer at the time basically flooded Iraq with hundreds of thousands of young, unemployed men in search for a job and a cause. Radical armed groups formed that began to pay money, many of them backed by hostile governments, and the war became even more deadly. Iran fought back to contain the Wahhabi carnage on its borders, as well as against the US invaders. Out of one particular Wahhabi group in Iraq – The Islamic State of Iraq, spawned ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that would later on devastate Iraq and Syria. America not only committed war crimes in Iraq, but sowed the seeds of future conflicts, and at the same time complained of Iranian influence in Iraq! Sensing regime change could be possible, Iran continued its nuclear program to extract concessions, while Israeli Mossad and CIA continued with assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists on its streets, and being the likely forces behind the notorious Stuxnet virus, which damaged Iran’s centrifuges.
But these measures were only buying time. Israel should have directed its angst towards the Zionist Neocons who orchestrated most of the clusterfuck which backfired on their interests. Pro-Israel AIPAC lobbying was now obsessing over Iran, threatening attacks and bombings. US foreign policy became obsessed with “confronting” Iran. In response, the Iranian president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made frequent inflammatory statements that played into the hands of the War Party. In the mid-2000s, things were heating up in Palestine. In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah clashed, with the latter forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. Fatah also lost Palestinian elections to Hamas in 2006, an election outcome that the West would not recognise because they favoured Fatah. So much for supporting “democracy” when the outcome doesn’t suit oneself. Emboldened by popular backing, in 2007 Hamas seized the Gaza strip from Fatah. Iran began to back Hamas, which was now under blockade in Gaza.
In 2009, an attempted color coup was started in Iran, the “green revolution”, with popular protests spreading in the wake of the shooting of a girl, Neda Soltani. Neocons were well known to hijack popular protests that begin with good intentions, and turn out with bad intentions. Western mainstream media was encouraging a revolution, particularly the CIA infiltrated the Huffington Post, Washington Post and the New York Times, who were at the time, galvanising anti-Iranian sentiment. The color revolution failed, and it wasn’t as popular as the CIA had hoped. This further hardened Iranian attitudes, which accelerated their nuclear program. In response, senile Senator John McCain’s “Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran” outburst and Benjamin Netenyahu’s comical cartoons at the UN of the ticking Iranian timebomb served to illustrate the paranoia in Neocon circles at how much their policies have backfired. Sensing their hopes of regime changing Iran being dashed, President Obama bucked the trend and agreed to a historic deal with Iran in 2015, to lift sanctions in exchange for winding down the nuclear program. This was one of his very few achievements that delivered diplomatic common sense in a deteriorating situation. Of course, the real reason for alarm at Iran’s nuclear deterrence in the first place, was that it would upset Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region and stifle any regime change threats by the United States.
In the midst of the nuclear deal, the terrorist group ISIS in the Syria War had expanded, threatening Lebanon. With Israel, UK, US, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan behind ISIS and various head-chopping terrorists in Syria, it was actually the brilliant Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Al Quds force, who went to Moscow and convinced Putin successfully to help Iran defeat this plague in Syria. Not long after that, the Russian air force began to fly concerted sorties against ISIS at the end of September 2015, and ISIS began to quickly learn that it’s passed the peak that the West enabled them to have. Soon afterwards, a Russian plane was shot down in Syria in November 2015 by what could have been a motivated pro-NATO/Gulenist Turkish pilot, seeking to pit Turkey and Russia on a collision course to derail efforts to wipe out NATO’s ISIS proxies. In spite of these setbacks, ISIS as of September 2017, is on the verge of defeat, having been dropped as a useful force by its backers, thanks to the combined efforts of Syria, Iran and Russia, who are also on the verge of victoriously resisting the US empire’s attempt to regime change the Syrian government.
Having essentially lost the war Syria, the Saudis who backed Al Qaeda, ISIS, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam among many other Wahhabi-inspired terrorist groups in Syria, in an attempt to confront what they regard as the heretical Shia, Saudi Arabia then turned to Yemen, intervening in the civil war between Shia Houthis and the Aden government in 2015. The Saudis were backed by the UK and US, while the Houthis received aid from Iran. The Saudi and Western intervention began a brutal air bombing campaign adding to the growing death toll in the war, with over 13,000 civilians killed.
Nevertheless, Iran gets a very bad wrap in Western media, because Western governments are unwilling to be honest to their own citizens about the roles they have played over the century, in relation with Iran. The endless foreign meddling, provoking and general inability of US war planners to make good decisions about their own interests, let alone those of Iran, play a fundamental role in shaping Iranian counter-behaviour and hardening attitudes to this day. Iran has the capability to respond to aggression against Shia Muslims through-out the Middle East, something which raises ire amongst Saudi Arabia, Israel and America, who want the region to instead be a stomping ground for their interests only. Saudi Arabia sees Shia Islam as heretical through the lens of its own poisonous ideology – Wahhabism, which they continue to spout among madrassas worldwide, with West feigning indifference to this terrorism support. Israel stands against Iran and its nuclear program so vehemently because it can’t live in a world where its power goes challenged, – it wants sole monopoly over nuclear power in the Middle East and a free hand to do what it pleases in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria – Eretz Israel. And lastly, the US empire expects obedience from Iran, but those of us who understand the history of this great civilisation, know that this is no country to be treated with disrespect; rather, this is a very proud nation with a leadership that can be negotiated with, provided that pre-conditions and imperial arrogance are left at the door, – something US policy makers have not been able to grasp since WWII.
Despite Iranian blusters against Israel, Iran is not stupid to “nuke” Jerusalem if they did have the weapons as we are told by a pro-Zionist captured media, for if they did, they would also destroy some very holy Islamic sites in Al Quds and induce the wrath of the whole Umma and invite the Samsun retaliatory option from Israel. It just doesn’t add up. The propaganda against Iran is sadly widespread, and most of it is complete garbage. Iran can be a natural ally, having a highly organised and complex democratic system of voting and a young, highly educated and innovative workforce, however, it demands respect. And the US empire prefers to deal with hopeless puppets like the House of Saud, who don’t even understand what ‘respect’ is. Like Putin said, America doesn’t want allies, they just need vassals. And that will ultimately be the undoing of the US empire. Iran is the protector of Shia Muslims through-out the Middle East, and until Israel, Saudi Arabia and America recognize to coexist with the Shia, which they regard as not only heretical but a threat to be quashed and undeserving of respect, they will continue on the war path. Iran in the meanwhile has the capacity to respond to any aggression and the intellectual capacity to develop capable deterrence to defend its place in the Middle East, a place that has outlived Saudi Arabia, Israel and America as modern nation-states.