Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Everything Old is New Again

Look at this picture and think about it for a minute. On the left, of course, is Vladimir Putin, semi-autocratic President of the increasingly un-democratic Russian Federation. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is on the right. These two leaders are in attendance at a summit meeting of Caspian Sea nations this week. Russia and Iran both border the oil-rich Caspian Sea. This is the first time any Soviet/Russian head of state has visited Tehran since Stalin was at the Tehran conference during WWII, by the way. This is the same Putin that George Bush 'looked in the eye' and dubbed to be someone 'I can work with'. OK, whatever...

To a large extent, this picture represents the end result of a half century of mistakes and miscalculations in U.S. foreign policy. Beginning with the CIA backed coup of Mohammed Mosaddeq, the democratically elected Iranian leader, in 1953 and the placement in power of Shah Reza Pahlavi, the "Shah of Iran". This coup was orchestrated by the U.S. to insure an Iranian government that was 'friendly' to western petroleum companies. Mosaddeq actually had the gall to nationalize the Iranian petroleum industry, so that Iran itself might actually profit from the oil under it's own soil instead of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company - later renamed British Petroleum in 1954. How dare he. If these links to Wikipedia articles are bothersome to the anti-Wikipedi-ites out there, here's a link to a CIA produced article on the topic. Rest assured, many more Iranians are aware of this little piece of history than are Americans. No surprise there.

Fast forward past the 1979 Islamic revolution and hostage crisis in Iran, to the Iran-Iraq war. The Iran-Iraq war resulted in over 1 million casualties on each side. During this war in the 1980's, we backed Saddam Hussein against Iran (see famous Rumsfeld-Hussein meeting at left). We even supplied him with the technology to produce chemical weapons, which he was not shy about using against the Iranians and the Kurds alike. I can assure you that not too many Iranians are unaware of this little piece of history either.

Now let's look at Russia. Recently, I was fortunate enough to see ex-Senator Bill Bradley speak at a conference and he took some questions. One of the questioners asked him what world leader he met who was the most impressive. Without hesitation, he said Mikhail Gorbachev. He went on to describe how Gorbachev had the vision to realize that the Soviet Union was being crushed under it's own weight and had to be dismantled. Senator Bradley then described a recent meeting with him, where Gorbachev described a meeting with Jim Baker when he agreed to withdraw all Soviet military forces from the eastern-bloc nations in exchange for one thing: that NATO not be allowed to expand into these nations. Bradley then went on to remind us how we went back on that promise during the 1990's against the protestations of Yeltsin and now, more forcefully, of Putin.

The reason Gorbachev knew this was necesary is because of Russia's centuries old xenophobic nature. They have always been fearful of outsiders invading the 'motherland' and our NATO expansion among other factors, was fertile ground for an ultra-nationalist like Putin to amass power and become uncooperative to our foreign policy goals.

So, Russia and Iran are only two examples of the dozens of countries that we've pushed around, lied to or otherwise screwed over in the past fifty or so years alone. Maybe this picture makes more sense now.

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