By now, many outsiders can identify the man whose picture is on the right-hand side of this protest sign. He is Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reported loser in this month's presidential election. The elderly gentleman in the other picture is unfamiliar to most non-Iranians. He and his fate, however, lie at the historical root of the protests now shaking Iran.
. . . He does not look like a man whose fate would continue to influence the world decades after his death. But this was Muhammad Mossadeq, the most fervent advocate of democracy ever to emerge in his ancient land.
Above the twinned pictures of Mossadeq and Mousavi on this protest poster are the words "We won't let history repeat itself." Centuries of intervention, humiliation and subjugation at the hand of foreign powers have decisively shaped Iran's collective psyche. The most famous victim of this intervention – and also the most vivid symbol of Iran's long struggle for democracy – is Mossadeq. Whenever Iranians assert their desire to shape their own fate, his image appears.
Iranians began their painful and bloody march toward democracy with the constitutional revolution of 1906. Only after the second world war did they finally manage to consolidate a freely elected government. Mossadeq was prime minister, and became hugely popular for taking up the great cause of the day, nationalisation of Iran's oil industry. That outraged the British, who had "bought" the exclusive right to exploit Iranian oil from a corrupt Shah, and the Americans, who feared that allowing nationalization in Iran would encourage leftists around the world.
In the summer of 1953 the CIA sent the intrepid agent Kermit Roosevelt – grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed Americans should "walk softly and carry a big stick" – to Tehran with orders to overthrow Mossadeq. He accomplished it in just three weeks.
. . . With this covert operation, the world's proudest democracy put an end to democratic rule in Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi returned to the Peacock Throne and ruled with increasing repression for a quarter-century. His repression produced the explosion of 1979 that brought reactionary mullahs to power. Theirs is the regime that rules Iran today.
. . . Militants in Washington who now want the US to intervene on behalf of Iranian protesters either are unaware of this history or delude themselves into thinking that Iranians have forgotten it.
Here is Fred Barnes on the same subject:
BARNES: And then when you see, you know Obama has used — the most pathetic thing is to say, gee, well, we were involved in 1953 — 1953! This is an extremely young society. You think those demonstrators are thinking, well, we hope the U.S. stays out because they were involved in 1953? That's total nonsense.
POWERS: I think there is a history there.
POWERS: They do remember the United States meddling.
BARNES: No, they don't.
Like Saxby Chambliss, Barnes has no idea what he's talking about, but that doesn't keep him from pontificating. He is all the authority he needs.