Stephen Kinzer's book, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, tells the story of the overthrow of Iran's democratically-elected leader, Mohammed Mosaddeq, by the CIA and the British MI6 in 1953. The CIA bribed Iranian government officials, businessmen, and reporters, and paid Iranians to demonstrate in the streets.
The 1953 street demonstrations, together with the Cold War claim that the US had to grab Iran before the Soviets did, served as the US government's justification for overthrowing Iranian democracy. What the Iranian people wanted was not important.
Today, the street demonstrations in Tehran show signs of orchestration. The protesters, primarily young people, especially young women opposed to the dress codes, carry signs written in English: "Where is My Vote?" The signs are intended for the western media—not for the Iranian government.
More evidence of orchestration is provided by the protesters' chant, "death to the dictator, death to Ahmadinejad." Every Iranian knows that the president of Iran is a public figure with limited powers. His main role is to take the heat from the governing grand Ayatollah. No Iranian, and no informed Westerner, could possibly believe that Ahmadinejad is a dictator. Even Ahmadinejad's superior, Khamenei, is not a dictator, as he is appointed by a government body that can remove him.
The demonstrations, like those in 1953, are intended to discredit the Iranian government and to establish for Western opinion that the government is a repressive regime that does not have the support of the Iranian people. This manipulation of opinion sets up Iran as another Iraq ruled by a dictator who must be overthrown by sanctions or an invasion.
On American TV, the protesters who are interviewed speak perfect English. They are either westernized secular Iranians who were allied with the Shah and fled to the West during the 1978 Iranian revolution or they are the young Westernized residents of Tehran.
Many of the demonstrators may be sincere in their protest, hoping to free themselves from Islamic moral codes. But if reports of the US government's plans to destabilize Iran are correct, paid troublemakers are in their ranks.
Some observers, such as George Friedman, believe that the American destabilization plan will fail. However, many ayatollahs feel animosity toward Ahmadinejad, who assaults the ayatollahs for corruption. Many in the Iranian countryside believe that the ayatollahs have too much wealth and power. Amadinejad's attack on corruption resonates with the Iranian countryside, but not with the ayatollahs.
Amadinejad's campaign against corruption has brought Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri out against him. Montazeri is a rival to ruling Ayatollah Khamenei. Montazeri sees in the street protests an opportunity to challenge Khamenei for the leadership role.
So, once again, as so many times in history, the ambitions of one person might seal the fate of the Iranian state.
Khamenei knows that the elected president is an underling. If he has to sacrifice Ahmadinejad's election in order to fend off Montazeri, he might recount the vote and elect Mousavi, thinking that will bring an end to the controversy.
Khamenei, solving his personal problem, would play into the hands of the American-Israeli assault on his country.
On the surface, the departure of Ahmadeinjad would cost Israel and the US the loss of their useful "anti-Semitic" boggy-man. But in fact it would play into the American-Israeli propaganda. The story would be that the remote, isolated, Iranian ruling Ayatollah was forced by the Iranian people to admit the falsity of the rigged election, calling into question rule by Ayatollahs who do not stand for election.
Mousavi and Ayatollah Montazeri are putting their besieged country at risk. Possibly they believe that ridding Iran of Ahmadeinjad's extreme image would gain Iran breathing room.
If Mousavi and Montazeri succeed in their ambitions, one likely result would be a loss in Iran's independence. The new rulers would have to continually defend Iran's new moderate and reformist image by giving in to American demands. If the government admits to a rigged election, the legitimacy of the Iranian Revolution would be called into question, setting up Iran for more US interference in its internal affairs.
For the American neoconservatives, democratic countries are those countries that submit to America's will, regardless of their form of government. "Democracy" is achieved by America ruling through puppet officials.
The American public might never know whether the Iranian election was legitimate or stolen. The US media serves as a propaganda device, not as a purveyor of truth. Election fraud is certainly a possibility—it happens even in America—and signs of fraud have appeared. Large numbers of votes were swiftly counted, which raises the question whether votes were counted or merely a result was announced.
The US media's response to the election was equally rapid. Having invested heavily in demonizing Ahmadinejad, the media is unwilling to accept election results that vindicate Ahmadinejad and declared fraud in advance of evidence, despite the pre-election poll results published in the June 15 Washington Post, which found Ahmadinejad to be the projected winner.
There are many American interest groups that have a vested interest in the charge that the election was rigged. What is important to many Americans is not whether the election was fair, but whether the winner's rhetoric is allied with their goals.
For example, those numerous Americans who believe that both presidential and congressional elections were stolen during the Karl Rove Republican years are tempted to use the Iranian election protests to shame Americans for accepting the stolen Bush elections.
Feminists take the side of the "reformer" Mousavi.
Neoconservatives damn the election for suppressing the "peace candidate" who might acquiescent to Israel's demands to halt the development of Iranian nuclear energy.
Ideological and emotional agendas result in people distancing themselves from factual and analytical information, preferring instead information that fits with their material interests and emotional disposition.
The primacy of emotion over fact bids ill for the future. The extraordinary attention given to the Iranian election suggests that many American interests and emotions have a stake in the outcome.
Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.