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History Will Repeat Itself if We Intervene in Iran

Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members.


Queen Elizabeth II has her coronation in Westminster Abbey. Dwight D. Eisenhower is inaugurated. Josef Stalin dies. The first James Bond novel is published. Egypt officially becomes a republic.

In that same year, intervention in Iran occurred. When the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh decided to nationalise the Iraqi oil industry and expel foreign executives to limit control of the reserves, the United States and the United Kingdom were less than impressed. In that year, the two nations joined together to overthrow Mosaddegh. What resulted was a military government that ensured that Iran under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi essentially became an absolute monarchy.

Twenty-six years later, and the Shah headed on a plane out of Iran. One month later and a landslide referendum result saw the monarchy officially abolished.

The Iranian Revolution is much more complicated than can be written here, and its reasons were numerous. When it came to the Shah, his support from the West was unpopular. Propped up by foreign powers that were not popular in the conservative Middle Eastern country, the Shah was close to the West and to Iran’s now enemy Israel. For those who didn’t support him, the Shah was a puppet of a non-Islamic imperialist country. The Shah was more interested in relations with the West and was a lot more secular than the deeply religious country, something that bothered the deeply conservative working classes. While he introduced some robust reforms, the Shah was also very oppressive, though not as corrupt as his father, and he imprisoned many.

No one can argue that Iran today is worse than it was decades ago. What came from the 1979 revolution was not religious freedom, democracy, and freedom. The people of Iran are trapped in an autocratic Islamic regime, which imprisons them for minor crimes and censors many parts of their lives. While the people can vote for their President, the Supreme Leader is selected by a small number of men. The constitution says that women cannot hold both roles.

Regime change is desirable. When people are living under a dictator, impoverished while their taxes are spent on proxy wars and are oppressed in any manner of speaking, we hope that they can rise up. This is not a case of the opinion of right or left, as many unite in their hate of the Iranian regime. Our quarrel is with them, not with the people. The loud protests and riots we have seen across the beautiful country show that the regime is not stable.

It may be desirable, but it cannot come from an outside source. If the UK and US were to support a particular candidate upon the imagined ridding of the Ayatollah, they might not necessarily be supported, even as an alternative. While many in Iran are pro-reform, many are deeply conservative and religious, though not to the extent that their leadership is. A Western-backed leader may not work with a vast country which has considerable differences in culture and society. Iranians are not blind or alien to democracy.

When we look at 20th and 21st-century interventions and invasions, they do not necessarily have a good aftermath. The Koreas were divided, and one is the most oppressive state in the world. Vietnam and Cambodia remain poor. Iraq may have democracy but knows neither of stability or peace. The Taliban were kicked out as leaders of Afghanistan but remain there, and the country is also deeply troubled. Syria still has a brutal dictator, as well as millions of refugees and a still relevant Islamic State. Libya is brittle and an active part of the slave trade.

That is not to say that intervention has caused every single one of these issues, that would be quite blasé. These countries had problems for years, and they didn’t always evolve around the Western intervention. Still, the aim of war should be the hope of a stable future. If the West is to enter into a war, they bare as much responsibility as the old regime fighting would. It is not easy to build a country back up- infrastructure, deaths, democracy, and law would be a few issues that they would have to face.

We must, however, not take this lying down. If Iran kills a foreign citizen, soldier, or targets international soil, then it is fair to reply in kind. Going with our cap in hand is not to be done, even though it doesn’t necessarily mean war. Donald Trump ordered the attack as a response to Iranian backed movements causing agitation in neighbouring Iraq. If the Iranians attacked and killed Brits, then it’s our prerogative to fight back.

The death of Qasem Soleimani will not be mourned by many, for he was indisputably one of the most evil men in Iran, someone who is behind many murders and terrorist attacks. He’s equal to the top brass in the United States military. Whatever you think of his death, he was one of the worst examples of humanity. Do not be fooled by the images of his gigantic funeral, many in and out of Iran despise him. What we can do to convey this is shine a light on now only Soleimani, but the regime he supported. Let’s talk about women jailed for showing their hair; gays hung from cranes and Bahá’i followers who are persecuted.

If a war happens, it must be the last resort. Even neocons and other hawks should hope that war will not occur, as it destabilises regions and kills thousands, if not millions. Iran is a complicated country, and we cannot see the world as black and white. Those who will suffer aren’t necessarily the leaders of the regime, but innocent Iranians who do not have hate in their hearts.

The Temptation’s 1970 hit ‘War’ has a chorus which asks ‘war, what is it good for?’ The responding lyrics state ‘absolutely nothing.’ In the case of Iran, it’s undoubtedly true. In the case of the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s also true.

Sarah Stook