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U.S. Hypocrisy on Iran

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“It has been clear for some time that Iran has been meddling in Iraq,” says White House spokesman Gordon D. Johndroe.

“We don’t believe that [Iran’s] behavior, such as supporting Shia extremists in Iraq, should go unchallenged,” John Negroponte, the U.S. intelligence boss, added.

Meanwhile, President Bush has authorized American troops to kill Iranians in Iraq if they seem to be engaged in activities hostile to the United States. He’s also sent a couple of carriers to the Persian Gulf in a show of force aimed at Iran.

In response, Iran has said it would enlarge its economic and military assistance to Iraq.

There is something surreal in all this. The U.S. government is warning Iran against meddling in Iraq. But the U.S. government is meddling in Iraq! Is there a clearer case of a pot calling a kettle black?

Neither country should be meddling, but there are important differences. Iraq is next door to Iran but far from the United States. Iraq, backed by the United States, attacked Iran in 1980, leading to a grueling eight-year war, but never attacked the America. Finally, Iran’s next-door neighbor is “hosting” 150,000 U.S. troops. No Iranian troops have been sighted in Canada or Mexico.

There’s something else that’s bizarre about the U.S. government’s warning Iran to stay out of Iraqi affairs. In 1953 the CIA executed the ultimate interference in Iranian affairs by engineering a regime change and restoring to power the brutal and hated shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Many Americans have no idea this happened. They think the Iranian government despises America because we permit raunchy speech and abortion. One such American is Dinesh D’Souza, whose new book argues that radical Muslims like Osama bin Laden and those who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center “hate us for how we use our freedom.” D’Souza’s historical “knowledge” of U.S.-Iran relations goes all the way back to — 1979. As he wrote in the Washington Post, “President Jimmy Carter’s withdrawal of support for the shah of Iran, for example, helped Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime come to power in Iran, thus giving radical Islamists control of a major state.”

He’s got to be kidding. Does D’Souza think the forces that put Khomeini in power came out the blue unprovoked or that the revolution was motivated by Victoria’s Secret? Surely he has read about Operation Ajax, in which the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, and Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., father of the 1991 Gulf War general, conspired in 1953, along with British intelligence, to overthrow the democratically elected, though socialist, government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and restore the despotic shah to his Peacock Throne. In the turmoil produced by a western-sponsored boycott of Iran after nationalization of the oil industry, the shah had left Tehran for a long “vacation” on the Caspian Sea and then in Baghdad. But he did not leave until he knew that a U.S. operation was under way to save him.

As author James A. Bill wrote, “The American intervention of August 1953 was a momentous event in the history of Iranian-American relations. [It] left a running wound that bled for twenty-five years and contaminated relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran following the revolution of 1978-79.”

For a quarter-century after the coup the Iranian people suffered under the brutality and secret police of the shah, a loyal U.S. ally and recipient of millions in arms and money, until they revolted under the religious leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. They have not forgotten the U.S. government’s responsibility.

If a foreign power had clamped a despotism on us, we too might have been resentful. So perhaps the Iranian seizure of the U.S. embassy and its personnel in 1979 wasn’t so malicious. Contrary to D’Souza, the troubles did not begin in the 1970s. It is typical of too many Americans to be ignorant of the U.S. government’s foreign misconduct and then to think that any hostility toward America must be unjustified.

With Bush’s warnings to Iran, U.S. hypocrisy has reached a new low.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.