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Australia needs to rethink its position on Iran

By Peter Bowden - posted Monday, 15 July 2019

A US news broadcast recently announced "President Donald Trump's move this week to send 1,000 troops to the Middle East has ratcheted up tensions with Iran that have been building since the White House scrapped the nuclear deal last year." The Harvard University Belfer Centre says Iran began to escalate its tactics in early May. They are both wrong. The conflict between Donald Trump and Iran is a long drawn out affair, initiated by the United States, and has lasted almost ¾ of a century. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations almost 40 years ago. Australia should not be drawn into this possible war. In fact, it should try to rectify the conflict.

The Morrison government has left the door open to joining a co-ordinated international effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran, saying at the recent G20 meeting that Australia is "in consultation with our allies and partners" as tensions mount between Washington and Tehran. It is not Iran where the pressure is needed. It is the United States.

This writer spent several years in international consulting. Included were several weeks in Iran with the World Bank, during the time of the Shah. I am fully convinced Trump has no basis for his threats against Iran. In support of this thesis, I will detail the following history of a dispute lasting almost 70 years . And why Iranians, we in Australia, and the world, should be fearful of the United States actions in the Gulf.


The US backed overthrow in 1953 of Mossadegh Mohammad Mosaddegh, a democratically elected Prime Minister was the origins of the dispute. In 1941, the UK and Soviet Union had forced the abdication of the Iranian monarch, Reza Shah Pahlavi (who they considered to be friendly towards the Axis powers), and replaced him with his eldest son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1951, Mosaddegh became prime minister and set about implementing socialist and nationalist reforms. The Shah agreed after intense pressure from the Iran parliament, the Majlis. Mosaddegh's overthrow was organised by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom's MI6. The reason was Mosaddegh's proposed nationalization of the Iranian oil industry (approved by the Majlis).To this writer it was a perfectly legitimate move. The oil was Iranian. Mosaddegh was sentenced to three years in prison and then kept under house arrest until his death in 1967

In 2013, the U.S. government formally acknowledged its role in the coup. According to the CIA's declassified documents and records, mobsters in Tehran were hired by the CIA to stage pro-Shah riots. Other CIA-paid men were brought into Tehran and took over the streets of the city. Between 200 and 300 people were killed in the conflict. Mosaddegh was arrested, tried and convicted of treason by the Shah's military court.

· The SAVAK secret police was established by Mohammad Reza Shah with the assistance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Israeli MOSSAD. SAVAK operated from 1957 until the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This writer, as a World Bank employee, discovered that public servants in Iran were unwilling to talk openly. This is the reverse of practice in other countries. Normally, civil servants in developing countries open up to members of a World Bank mission, for the visitor presents a rare opportunity for resolution of their many problems. The prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar ordered the dissolution of SAVAK during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. This revolution brought in Ayatollah Khomeini and ended a 2500 year old Persian dynasty. It was welcomed however, by most Iranian people

The Shah fled the country when Khomeini took over. He went to Mexico, but no offer of asylum was forthcoming. Jimmy Carter allowed him to come to the US for cancer treatment. In response, insurgents took over the US embassy in Iran, leading to the hostage crisis, and Carter's eventual defeat. He died of cancer while in exile in Egypt in 1980.

The US had helped Iran to establish its nuclear programme in the late 1950s, providing the country with its first nuclear reactor and, later with weapons-grade enriched uranium.

The country's 1979 Islamic Revolution is celebrated as Victory Day. Hundreds of thousands of people poured out onto the streets of Tehran and other cities and towns across Iran, on the recent celebration of the 40 th. anniversary. Trump's national security adviser John Bolton declared that "U.S. policy should be to end the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary."


US and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1980, over the hostage crisis. It is the main reason why "the US has been so unrelentingly hostile to Iran over three decades," Switzerland currently serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran

Flight_655 was a scheduled Iran Air passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas, that was shot down on 3 July 1988 by a missile fired from USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser of the United States. All 290 people on board, including 66 children, were killed. The blame, among several possibilities, was attributed to Captain William Rogers of the Vincennes, who was criticized for being overly aggressive by Commander David Carlson, commanding officer of the USS Sides, a second guided missile ship tin the area at the time.

By way of comparison Malaysian Airlines MH 317 was shot down on 17 July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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