A Short History of Iran

by Claude Garrod and Judy Reynolds

The propaganda campaign currently focused on Iran and Ahmadinejad has striking similarities to that which prepared the country for our current war with Iraq. There are the WMDs (which turned out not to exist), there is the nuclear program on the verge of weapons development (remember the "mushroom clouds"), and there is the extreme vilification of the political leader as "the new Hitler." In a recent interview, Seymour Hersh noted that we've been through at least twenty "new Hitlers" since the real one. It would only take some change in his policies for a "bold leader" like Musharraf of Pakistan or Karzai of Afghanistan to morph into a New Hitler. The mass media and the public act like the classic Battered Wife. How many times will they have to be abused before they learn that it won't be different this time? In the present atmosphere there is an almost complete void of accurate information in the popular press and TV about the history of US-Iran relations and the Iranian nuclear program. The following facts and analysis is intended to help fill that void.

From 1941 to 1953 Iran had a constitutional monarchy with a limited king, called a Shah, and an independent parliament, called the Majlis. In 1951 the Majlis chose Mohammed Mosaddeq as Prime Minister and, with his support, passed a law nationalizing the oil industry, which previously had been controlled by Britain with a sweetheart contract dating back to 1933. In 1953 the CIA, in cooperation with the British and some elements in the Iranian Army, overthrow Mosaddeq in a coup and established the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, as an absolute monarch. The CIA then helped the Shah to organize a brutal secret police, called the Savak, that maintained an oppressive regime lasting until 1979.

In 1957, with US encouragement and technical assistance, the Shah started a nuclear research program. Over the next two decades, the US supplied Iran with a nuclear research reactor and extensive advanced laboratory facilities for the safe handling of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium. Again with US support, the Shah decided to embark on an extensive building program for nuclear power stations. The US competed with Germany and France for contracts to build nuclear power plants in Iran.

1961 The US Defense Department recommends placing nuclear weapons in Iran but the recommendation is shot down by the State Department. (The relative powers of departments was certainly different back then.)

1967 The pool-type reactor, supplied to Iran by a US company begins operation with 5.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, also supplied by the US.

1968 Iran is one of the first counties to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Three countries in the area, namely Israel, Pakistan, and India, refuse to sign the agreement and go on to develop nuclear weapons - all three are now our allies in the War on Terror.

The following are highlights from the document:

Article IV (1): These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency [meaning IAEA] confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities.

Article IV (3): The Agency's delegation is of the view that the agreement on the above issues shall further promote the efficiency of the implementation of safeguards in Iran and its ability to conclude the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iran's nuclear activities.

Article IV (4): The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use.

The Director-General of the IAEA has also confirmed in an interview published by Profil, an Austrian magazine that it is highly unlikely that Iran would pursue the development of a nuclear weapons program.