As the images came out of Tehran recently, some of us who remember the hostage situation and the Iran-Iraq War, a conflict of which Henry Kissinger said he hoped both sides would lose, are buoyed by the possibility of a new regime in Iran. If it transpires, the midwives of this course change will no doubt be the Mossad and we can hope our own CIA.
For once, after eight years of recent incompetence and domestic political intrigue at Langley, we may have a leg up on the Israelis when it comes to good covert work in that region. Because over sixty years ago we pulled off the same caper.
Let’s take the Wayback Machine to the sainted annum of 1953. Ike has just been inaugurated and a young anti-communist firebrand from California is his veep. That veep, Dick Nixon, would go on to more interesting things. Winston Churchill is again the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Allen Dulles is at CIA, he of WWII Intel fame in Switzerland, and his brother John Foster Dulles is the Secretary of State. Hell of a team, them Dulles boys. They were such high-voltage hellraisers that it drove British pol and eventual PM Antony Eden to quip, “dull, duller, Dulles.”
When a Bolshie upstart named Mohammad Mosaddegh tried to put a move on the British oil interest in Iran, he was the elected PM, we and the Brits teamed up to execute Operation Ajax, the overthrow of the communist-backed Iranian PM and the installation of a government overseen by the young Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Our man on the ground running the show? Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.
I could bang on about operational details, but the result was after a bit of an initial muddle, we threw out Mosaddegh and the Shah reigned. But he never quite got the hang of constitutional monarchy, Jimmy Carter threw him to the wolves, the mullahs took over, and here we are today.
But it seems the actual people of Iran may have had enough of the clerics. Several years ago the incipient Green Revolution was stillborn because our then-president ignored it. Regime change in democratic US ally Israel? The immediately previous administration wanted and worked for that. In despotic radical Islamist Iran, exporter of terror, bringer of regional instability, and committed foe of the United States? Not so much.
At last report, riots over oil and food prices have broken out all over the nation. The security forces are shooting down scores in the streets. But the rioting, led by young people organized over social media, continues. So, where do we go from here? Poland.
No, I don’t mean we take a weekend getaway to Gdansk. We remember Poland in the 80s and how we supported the Solidarity movement against the Communist regime.
As a German-based US Army Intel analyst in the early 80s, I kept serious tabs on Warsaw because if the balloon went up it could have started there. Not having any need for access to that info, we heard rumors of coordinated efforts between the US, US labor unions (you know, back when they opposed communists), the Brits, and the Vatican to sustain Solidarity and run a psyops war of attrition against the Jaruzelski government.
There was even a rumor that Pope John Paul II, a Pole himself, had sent a letter to Soviet leader Brezhnev that if the Soviets themselves moved on Poland he would resign the papacy and lead the resistance to a Soviet invasion.
Western Intel kept Solidarity going with nonlethal supplies like printing presses, cash, and radios for secure comms. We kept the pressure on through our VOA broadcasts and coordination with expat Polish groups and churches. We didn’t leave them in the lurch.
We could do that in Iran today. With the Mossad’s help, who I bet has a good humint network in the country, we could do more. The Saudis and the Gulf States may want part of the action too.
But if we do we have to remember Colin Powell’s invocation of the Pottery Barn rule in regards to Iraq: You break it, you own it.
So, we can’t be too picky in replacing the mullahs with holier-than-thou democrats. Any convenient and hopefully rentable general will do nicely, thank you. Because we’re not there to usher in a golden dawn of excellence for the Iranians. If that happens, so much the better. We’d launch Ajax II to eliminate the threat the current thugs in power pose to American interests there and in the region.
As the uberwise Lord Palmerston said, “England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests.”
If not, we’ll make the mistake we’ve made before in assuming nations and cultures without the heritage of the Bible, Greek Philosophy, Roman Law, The Church, the Enlightenment, the American constitution, those the very soil modern western democracy grows in, will spring up free and representative governments automatically because American neo-Wilsonians have geopolitical ants in their pants.
I think the realist American president will not fall into that trap, as have his predecessors. In the Oval Office today is not some chuffed up wannabe con law professor, or a middle class charismatic hustler, or a nice but generally clueless patrician.
We’ve got a leader. A man not afraid to take risks, not afraid to act when others dither.
Sure, Ajax II will catch the usual flak from the usual suspects. The Euros will decry the operation publicly and breathe a sigh of relief privately. The Dems will oppose it, or anything else the president does as a matter of course. If he cured cancer they’d whine about unemployed oncologists.
And as, or if, the plot unfolds there would be one paramount question: Think Teddy Roosevelt has any spare descendants lying around?