Thursday, July 2, 2009

Iran and Leftist Confusion

Nicole Sadighi, an Iranian living in London, England, holds her dog Mishka as she rallies beneath a large pre-revolution Iranian flag during a protest against the election results in Iran. (Photo: AP)

    When I returned from covering the Iranian elections recently, I was surprised to find my email box filled with progressive authors, academics and bloggers bending themselves into knots about the current crisis in Iran. They cite the long history of US interference in Iran and conclude that the current unrest there must be sponsored or manipulated by the Empire.

    That comes as quite a shock to those risking their lives daily on the streets of major Iranian cities fighting for political, social and economic justice.

    Some of these authors have even cited my book, "The Iran Agenda," as a source to prove US meddling. Whoa there, pardner. Now we're getting personal.

    The large majority of American people, particularly leftists and progressives, are sympathetic to the demonstrators in Iran, oppose Iranian government repression and also oppose any US military or political interference in that country. But a small and vocal number of progressives are questioning that view, including authors writing for Monthly Review online or Foreign Policy Journal, and prominent academics such as retired professor James Petras.

    They mostly argue by analogy. They correctly cite numerous examples of CIA efforts to overthrow governments, sometimes by manipulating mass demonstrations. But past practice is no proof that it's happening in this particular case. Frankly, the multi-class character of the most recent demonstrations, which arose quickly and spontaneously, were beyond the control of the reformist leaders in Iran, let alone the CIA.

    Let's assume for the moment that the US was trying to secretly manipulate the demonstrations for its own purposes. Did it succeed? Or were the protests reflecting 30 years of cumulative anger at a reactionary system that oppresses workers, women and ethnic minorities, indeed the vast majority of Iranians? Is President Mahmood Ahmadinejad a "nationalist-populist," as claimed by some, and therefore an ally against US domination around the world? Or is he a repressive, authoritarian leader who actually hurts the struggle against US hegemony?

    Let's take a look.

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