This Week in European Conflict… February 11th-18th, 2012.

  • On Friday, France and Britain agreed to jointly work to develop next-generation unmanned drones as part of their military cooperation.
  • The Guardian ran a set of interesting articles detailing Scotland Yard’s investigation into Britain’s MI5 instances of torture, murder and rendition.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy formally declared that he will be running for a second term as President of France this spring.
  • The chief editor of the leading liberal radio station in Russia announced that a surprise management reshuffle at the station is aimed at dictating the station’s coverage ahead of the March 4th Presidential elections on Tuesday; while it was released that the country came close to a nuclear disaster last December when a blaze engulfed a nuclear-powered submarine carrying atomic weapons. On Wednesday, a fake video showing Vladimir Putin in a courtroom cage in what seemed to be a real trial for terrorism went viral on the internet; while the white ribbon protest gained steam, especially among those fashion-conscious Russians. On Thursday, the European Parliament expressed concern over the disputed Russian State Duma elections in December, but stopped short of called for their annulment; while an official responsible for foreign arms sales says the country set a weapons export record in 2011, selling $13.2 billion in arms to foreign clients, with India, Algeria and Vietnam accounting for half of all exports.
  • Serbs in northern Kosovo began voting on Monday in a referendum asking whether or not they accept the authority of ethnic Albanian rulers. The referendum has no legal weight, but is likely to further complicate the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and Serbia’s efforts to eventually join the EU. By Thursday, 99.74% of Serbs who voted rejected Albanian rule; and European Union-brokered talks were set to resume between Serbia and Kosovo.
  • At least three Russian police officers were reportedly killed and six others injured on Monday in a gun battle with suspected militants along the Chechen-Dagestan border.  On Tuesday, Russian security forces allegedly killed the leader of a rebel group, Ibragimkhalil Daudov in Dagestan.
  • Veterans of the Afghan-Soviet war in the Ukraine snubbed the President by turning their backs on him at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The daughter of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko said that her mother has been subjected to poor medical care and abusive conditions in prison during an interview.
  • On Saturday, the people of Latvia voted in a referendum on whether or not to make Russian the second official language of the country.
  • On Sunday night, tens of thousands of people in Greece reportedly tried to demonstrate peacefully in front of the parliament building, but were almost immediately met with teargas, and then took to rioting—setting fire to banks, stores and cafes. On Monday, the country announced it will hold general elections in April, only hours after Parliament voted through tough new austerity measures aimed at saving the country from bankruptcy.
  • The European Parliament President announced he is “appalled” by the deteriorating situation in Belarus regarding human rights and political freedoms on Tuesday and called upon authorities to release opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka and all other political prisoners. On Friday, another prominent Belarusian human rights activist who was sentenced to 4 ½ years in jail for tax evasion was transferred from a detention centre in Minsk to a labour camp in Babruysk.
  • Two international watchdogs condemned recent attacks on a Turkish newspaper office in Germany and France allegedly carried out by Kurdish activists. On Friday, the German President was forced into a humiliating resignation, after being caught up in an alleged corruption scandal and misguided attempt to muzzle the press.

Iran’s beef with the US.

In most of the news I read or see about Iranian-US relations, it negatively portrays Iran and almost chides it for its hosility towards the States. Anyone who has read about or lived in Iran, knows that there is a complicated history here of betrayal, hostility and distrust. There is definitely little reason for the Iranians to trust the Americans and many reasons for them to be angry. The rise of religious fundamentalism in Iran spawned out of a series of political intervention in the Iranian system by outside forces. Democracy at one time, was developing here, but this was stifled by American and British parties who were striving to keep full control of their colonial resources.

In the 1950s Mohammed Mossadeq, the Iranian Prime Minister, began seeking independence (from Britain) and democracy for Iran. He was loved by the people, and seen as a great hope for the development of Iran. He was overthrown in a coup carried out by the CIA (Operation Ajax) and the British after he cut off their oil profits, seeking to better his population with some of the oil money. After intense hostility, and wanting to receive better shares in their country’s own resources (at least a 50-50 split), Mossadegh decided to nationalise Iranian oil supplies and take full control. Britain put an immediate worldwide embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil and pressured all of its allies to do the same. Only Japan and Italy continued to purchase Iranian oil, and the economy began to go into serious decline.

Assassination attempts on Mossadegh’s life, led him to call a referendum to decide the fate of the government in a democratic way. Overwhelming support in his favor resulted, so he dissolved the house and took control.

The Shah (the monarch of Iran), with British prodding, signed a royal decree dismissing Mossadegh and his cabinet and appointed a new Prime Minister. The legality of this was questionable since a Prime Minister could only be appointed or dismissed by the House and not the Shah according to the consitution. After intense public demonstration in favor of Mossadegh, the Shah fled the country, only to return after the CIA coup that removed Mossedegh from power. Mossadegh was charged, tried and sentenced to 3 years of solitary confinement, after which he would remain under house arrest until his death in 1967. Any opposition to the coup were arrested, with many sentenced to death.

The Shah was placed in charge, and subsequently restored the oil concession with Britain. Under his rule opposition parties were banned, suppressed and closely controlled. Freedom of speech was silenced and the constitution became questionable. The secret police (SAVAK- Sazman-e Ettelaat va Amniyat-e Keshvar) grew, as did massive corruption and Shia fundamentalism, rebelling against the growing oppression. The Shah’s regime allowed for US military personnel serving in Iran, their staffs and families to receive full diplomatic immunity; basically allowing them free reign within the country.

Despite the government’s incredible human rights abuses, the Shah was allowed to purchase unlimited quantities of military hardware from the US, in return for two listening posts in Iran to monitor Soviet ballistic missile launches and other military activity in the early 1970s. The government was accused of suppressing the population to such an extent that they actually fired on peaceful antigovernment marches killing at least 87 people in the streets in one attack.

Cleric Ayatollah Khomeini rose up against the increasing American and British presence and control in the country with bitter fundamentalism, pushing towards Islamic rule. He took over the country in a swift revolution and installed himself as supreme leader. The Shah fled for his life, and a brutal regime took hold for many years.

In 1979, the Americans allowed the exiled Shah into the US for cancer treatment, to the great anger of the Iranian people who wished to try him for his crimes against the Iranian people in their own country. They demanded his return to Iran, which was ignored by the US. A hostage situation ensued at the American Embassy in Tehran, where a group of Islamist students held 52 embassy staff hostage for 444 days.

A peaceful, democratic regime overthrown by the US and British, only so they can install their loyal, human rights abusing Shah so that they can keep stealing resources out of the country? If any other country attempted to overthrow a democratic American President or the British PM, only to install a brutal dictator; there would be serious consequences of those actions. Would there not be tremendous backlash and political uprising in the US if this were attempted? Would there not be attempts to overthrow the new dictator? Would there not be hatred towards those who helped to install the dictator? Why would we expect any different in Iran?

These type of practices continue. The plundering hands still reach the world, only now they are better disguised and hidden behind intensive propaganda. These powers still disrupt the democracy of many countries, while attempting to install it elsewhere, severely undermining the sincerity of their attempts.

This should not be permitted to continue. The UN and its Security Council need to be restructured so that this sort of crime will actually be discouraged and punished in the future.

Human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government should not be tolerated, and should be punished; but so should those who would disrupt democracy for profit.

I urge anyone interested in this topic to read “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer. It gives a great view into the roots of Middle Eastern terror and is a great introduction into the region.

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