Spiralling downwards into chaos
1 November 2011
It was just another week in the endless American wars. In Kabul a car bomb attack on a US military convoy killed at least thirteen. And three Australian soldiers were shot dead and seven wounded during a routine morning parade by a suicide attacker wearing an Afghan army uniform.
This is the second time one of our loyal Afghan allies has turned on his mentors inside a patrol base, so we’ve got to suspect that the Afghan soldiers have been effectively penetrated by the Taliban. By policy, almost none of these guys are local Afghans from the south, where Taliban support is strongest. They tend to dislike and be disliked by, the locals. Imagine how dangerous they’d be if they were locals. Imagine how pointless and dispiriting all this must be for the hapless troops in our token commitment to another piece of American idiocy.
Things aren’t going well in Iraq either. While the West is mouthing off about Assad’s oppression in Syria, our glorious Iraqi allies are backing him. What was intended to be a US client state in Iraq has become, inevitably, an Iranian one. A Shia islamist crescent is emerging in the arc from Iran, through Iraq, to Syria.
And then, of course, there’s Libya, which NATO thinks it's going to return to semi-colonial status but which might now, just as easily, become a reactionary islamic state, reversing the social advances of the Gaddafi years.
All this is a result of the West’s utterly self-centred and greedy approach to the developing world. Once upon a time, in the years before and shortly after WWII, there was a brief window of opportunity for progressive secular nationalist regimes to take control in Africa, Arabia, the Indian sub-continent and East Asia, but that has faded now. Vast swathes of the globe are spiralling downwards into chaos.
Secular nationalist regimes are inherently “socialistic”. These governments are necessarily about nationalising the major sources of wealth – typically oil and gas – instituting modernising social reforms, and building basic infrastructure. All this, of course, threatens the profits of the imperialists’ oil companies (and other economic “concessions”) and every time that happens, the imperialists’ knee-jerk reaction is to back the most conservative religious forces to overthrow the secular, or semi-secular nationalists.
They tell themselves, of course, that they will be able to control those forces, and, having used them, replace them with more sophisticated and compliant pro-Western leaders but all too often the plan backfires.
So with Tehran extending its influence, it’s worth remembering that Iran itself is a text-book example of the ugly and counterproductive role of US foreign policy.
Mohammad Mosaddegh was the Iranian prime minister who nationalised the country’s British-owned oil industry in the early 1950s. The Iranian oil industry had been under British control since 1913, latterly as British Petroleum. An author, administrator and lawyer, Mosaddegh actually came from an aristocratic background but instituted a wide range of progressive social reforms. Unemployment compensation was introduced, factory owners were forced to pay benefits to sick and injured workers, and peasants were freed from forced labor in their landlords’ estates. Twenty percent of the money landlords received in rent went to a fund for development projects such as public baths, rural housing, and pest control.
Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup (codnamed Operation Ajax) on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the CIA at the request of the British MI6. The coup relied heavily on the mobilization of the Shia clergy and to this end the CIA paid for and organised rural tribesmen and organised crime gangs to stage violent protests and supposedly leftist attacks on mosques. These were used as the trigger for the coup which placed an initially-reluctant Mohammad-Reza Shah in power.
Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years then put under house arrest until his death in 1967 and the rest, as they say, is history. The Shah ruled with an iron hand for 39 years and the western oil companies prospered. With all secular political parties effectively crushed, the Shia clergy remained as an irremovable alternative. When the Shah’s increasingly bizarre regime finally fell in 1980, the mullahs inherited the country. Thanks to George Bush’s idiotic and ruinously expensive invasion of Iraq they now run that country as well. In the final analysis we would all have been better off with Mosaddegh.