July 29, 2011 Leave a comment
William Hague is worried about Iran. So worried, in fact, that he declared his intention in The Guardian to add to EU sanctions against Iran. He is “determined”, no matter what “Iran may hope”, not to be distracted from its nuclear programme, and not to be so “naive” as to give it “the benefit of the doubt”. Strong words. I agree on at least one point: Iran’s plans for further uranium enrichment do “rightly prompt questions”.
But Mr. Hague’s article also prompts questions. Like, for instance, why is it that he makes no mention of the history of the Iranian nuclear programme, which is intimately tied to the Foreign Office?
In the very first line of his article, Hague relates an announcement by Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, the current head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). He neglects to mention, however, just how the AEOI came into existence. On August 19th 1953, the United Kingdom and the United States overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohamed Mossadeq, in a coup charmingly named ‘Operation Boot’. We then proceeded to reinstall the Shah – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – a vicious dictator who controlled one of the worst secret police forces in history (SAVAK), but happened to be willing to subordinate himself to Western influence. In 1967, the Shah founded Iran’s first nuclear research centre in Tehran, run by the AEOI, and equipped with a US nuclear reactor. Worse still, the Shah openly admitted that he was planning to obtain nuclear weapons. No protest from Washington or London.
Throughout the 1970s plans for over twenty nuclear reactors were drawn up (all with US support), and in 1975 the German Company Siemens AG signed a contract for the Bushehr nuclear plant. Again no protest.
Then came the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Iran’s current ruling establishment to power. Ayatollah Khomeini – of Salman Rushdie fatwa fame – immediately moved to shut down the nuclear programme that the Western backed dictator had established. Why then does Iran still have nuclear power plants, and, if Mr. Hague is correct, a weapons programme? In September 1980, Iraq began a UK backed invasion of Iran, that was to become an eight year conflict. Millions were killed, and large amounts of chemical weapons were used, particularly on Iranian infantry. Reluctantly, the Iranian leadership restarted its nuclear programme.
Mr. Hague doesn’t say this, and the reason is clear. The UK government has overthrown a legitimate Iranian leader, installed a brutal dictator in his place, and helped him to establish a nuclear programme. Then, after the Iranians overthrew the dictator, it supported an invasion of Iran that prompted them to restart the nuclear programme they so disliked. During that time, the UK and US have committed numerous acts of aggression in the Middle East. For a UK government minister to call Iran a danger to the region, especially because of its nuclear programme, is staggeringly hypocritical.
Needless to say, there is much more to this issue. What of the US and Israel, both of whom have huge nuclear arsenals and extensive records of aggression? If Hague cared about peace in the Middle East as he says, he would not be silent on these threats.
The fact that he parrots back the Washington narrative we’ve become so familiar with this past decade, of a rogue Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons to wreak havoc on the world, is telling. It tells us that he wants to present this issue without the historical context that is so important; to scare us with stories of a demon in the East, and subvert the brighter image of the region that the Arab Spring is building. After all, you have to justify a huge military budget and multiple war-zones somehow.