Democracy by Other Means

The fact that the US did not attack Iran militarily does not change the equation


Democracy by Other Means
by Hamid Karimianpour

Nation Building or Democracy by Other Means
by Hamid Karimianpour
Algora Publishing, 2011

The President of Carnegie Corporation, Vartan Gregorian (an Iranian-American), suggested in 2009 that President Obama should send a letter of friendship to Tehran. About the American response to the 1979–1980 hostage crisis he proposed that President Obama should write that “[n]o country, certainly no country in posses­sion of the vast power of the United States, would have failed to act under such circumstances. But we restrained our response, because the powerful have the option not to exercise their power…out of a sense of responsibility.”

The draft letter seems to suggest that the US was simply at the lib­erty to strike Iran if it wanted, but it is doubtful that the US actually did have an option to attack Iran because, firstly, that would have seriously endangered the lives of the American hostages. No use of force could have guaranteed that the hostages would not be killed in the process or that the Iranian students would not harm them in retaliation.

Furthermore, after Carter’s rescue mission failed, it looked more and more like the only military option to free hostages would be a full-scale invasion of Iran. The atmosphere in Iran in 1979–1980 was highly revolutionary and nationalistic. About five to ten million people had taken to the streets for one year to oust the Shah. The Iranian army was in shambles in 1979, but the revolution had created a huge insurgency force that could resist a US invasion. The hostage crisis occurred only four years after the end of the Vietnam War, and the Carter Administration did not seem to be interested in a new war that would uncomfortably look like that of the Vietnam Con­flict – especially considering that Iran had common borders with the Soviet Union at the time. The Soviet Union still appeared strong in 1979, and a US invasion of the Soviet Union’s southern neighbor could have involved both of the superpowers in a bloody war.

Finally, the US continued aggressive military interventions – though in smaller scales than that of the Vietnam War – in Latin America throughout 1970s and 1980s. The pattern of the US behavior in this period shows that the US might not have simply restrained itself “out of a sense of responsibility,” if it did believe that it could successfully attack Iran and get away with it. In fact, it is not unrea­sonable to expect that if Washington believed that it could win a war against Iran, it might have welcomed the opportunity as a way of boosting its image after a humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.

In his proposed letter to the leaders of Tehran for President Obama, Vartan Gregorian attempted to claim moral credit for not attack­ing Iran under the hostage crisis. But the decision to not attack Iran seems to have been hinged on strategic, not moral, considerations, and furthermore no nation can claim moral credit for the bad things that it did not do, just as no arsonist can claim moral credit for all the fires he did not (yet) set. Why, Iran could claim moral credit for not killing any of the hostages after all. And to be fair, Iran never called for the extradition and punishment of Kermit Roosevelt for his role in the coup, either.

The fact that the US did not attack Iran militarily does not change the equation. Iran was only lucky to escape a US military response, just as the Eisenhower Administration escaped punishment for its coup in Iran.

Hamid Karimianpour is a political activist and author with an interest in current affairs and international politics. Karimianpour was born in Iran, where he experienced major political and cultural transformations firsthand following the 1979 Islamic revolution. While still a teenager, he immigrated to Europe. He studied philosophy and economics at the University of Oslo in Norway and did postgraduate studies in philosophy at the University of Hull in the UK. Now an academic residing in Virginia, he has written and edited numerous articles on political and philosophical themes.


Recently by Hamid KarimianpourCommentsDate
Which Road to Iran?
Apr 08, 2011
Do We Need a Second Fukushima Daiichai in Bushehr?
Mar 18, 2011
Bushehr? Earthquake? Disaster?
Mar 16, 2011
more from Hamid Karimianpour

Afshinazad, history talks itself, no need for explanation

by Siavash300 on

Below is manscripts from central committe of Tudeh party backed Soviet Union about the number of their members right after oil was being nationalized. Below is NOT view, it is historical fact.


On July 16, 1952, Mosaddeq resigned after the shah refused to accept his nominatation for War Minister. Mosaddeq appealed to the general public for support, but Tudeh press continued to attack him, describing his differences with the shah "as merely one between different factions of a reactionary ruling elite."[26] It was only after the explosion of popular support for Mosaddeq in the street that "many rank-and-file" Tudeh party members "could see first hand Mosaddeq's popularity",[26] and came to his aid.

According to one observer:

although diverse elements participated in the July uprising, the impartial observer must confess that the Tudeh played an important part - perhaps even the most important part. ... If in the rallies before March 1952 one-third of the demonstrators had been Tudeh and two-thirds had been National Front, after March 1952, the proportions were reversed.[27]



Analysing our history with our own view

by afshinazad on

There are many analyses about our history and how we have started and how we got defeated and every time we analyse the history by some else’s point of you and we read a books and articles and think most of these are written must be half true and half distortion. Many of people have made of Mossadegh as a hero of democracy and father of nationalising oil in our country and not many mention that same old guy was from Gajar family (shahzadeh) who never been a politician and never had a knowledge of politic 101, many people will blame America and British to coup 1953 and there are fact in but also not all the fact.

Our country from Gajar dynasty:  our country was divided and occupied by two powerful forces from north to south and economy next to nothing and our share of oil was $20,000 dollar a year from British and where was the Mossadegh then.

Our country was getting bit by bit getting smaller and smaller and rest of the country was governed by tribes and bunch of clerics and thugs and you could imagine what hope was for the future


Pahlavi dynasty:  for better or worse by rise of Reza Pahlavi, our country been able to be one united nation and country called Iran and our territories got secured, whether was it by force or by the politic, Reza Pahlavi: have been accused of been dictator and what a hypocrisy in my opinion. If it wasn’t for someone like Reza Pahlavi, women would have never got a right in our country and we could have lost most of our border provinces before World War II, What he has done to our nation and the country regardless of all hardship we must all admit for country and society in that time was necessary.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi: young king with occupied country with two major power and helpless king and country and nation that has been in fast track of change from his father. And now he has a great responsibility in his shoulders and can you imagine what must have been for him personally. So where was Mossadegh then?  



Coup of 1953: was it for best interest of Iran and Iranian? That is the question everyone is asking from themselves and no one has the right answer for it. But looking at past, Mossadegh was in power for two year but he didn’t and couldn’t do anything because not only he was not capable but also society was not ready to change in any form or shape and regardless what we have been told.

Same people in 1979 with Mosadegh era and ideology and combined with left or the right and Islamist and every koor or khacal had a vision of freedom and democracy and what they did was a nuclear attack on our nation and the country and Islam all of sudden become topic of freedom and justification and equality and chaos and war and death and injustice and repression and let me make it very clear for some people who claim that their revolution was a hijacked. It is nothing but bunch of lies and you all made a same lies then and you are making it now, so man up and admit that it was a mistake and all of you were hungry for power and you didn’t what was a meaning of freedom and was it only imaginary word of our enemies, because we had a freedom but we didn’t know, only we were not able to elect the corrupt politician and instead we had selected corrupt politician and that was our misfortune, because were bunch of people with illusion, our greedy people came out for promise of oil money on their dinner table and etc.   Let’s see where we’re now:

 No freedom

No money on our table

You vote means jackass

Women’s rights been taken away

Our money worth nothing

Our passport means terrorist

Our names means terrorist

Our economy is bankrupt

One million of people death or lost limb in war

And you could imagine today how angry we are and what are we doing analysing past and hope that we could reach to some self satisfactory and are we satisfied yet? If we are we should concentrate on main issue how to topple the Islamic Regime and enough of past and enough of hypocrisy.    


U.S supported democracy in Iran in 1953

by Siavash300 on

U.S involvement in supporting pro-shah forces versus Mosaddeq and his followers were related to rapid influence of Soviet Union through Tudeh party. Seems most Iranians were being brainwashed or misinformed by western media about those days. The work of Dian Goldsmith and Mark J. Gasiorowski gives details account of the event. Mark Gasirorowski had access to all presidential files. He had indepth research and his work gives unbias description. The barbaric republic of Iran violating human right and must go to dumpster of history, as the Taliban in Afghanistan did.  There are certain values which are universal such as respecting human dignity. Stinky mullahs in Iran violate respect for human dignity by stoning people to death or lashing people in public like an animal. Obama mentioned about those universal values frequently in his speech. Time for overthrowing mullahs is tickling.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Response to "Bookrelease"

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I am just speaking for myself. I very much support reading history. I read it all the time myself. We do need to read from history. But that is different from what some people do. They carry the "kineh" or desire for vengeance.

For 25 years they carried hate and anger towards USA and the Shah. They care not about what happened. Just as long as they brought him down. In the process the brought down the nation. It reminds me of a quote from a US commander. He was talking about why he was NOT taking a town. I paraphrase "We could eliminate all rebels  but it requires total destruction of the town". In our case it involved total destruction of whatever progress Iran had made in years.

That is my problem with those who blame just the USA. I am also tired to Mossadegh worship. A few posts ago I asked about Mossadegh actions regarding Tahmasbi. No one even recognized much less responded to me. I guess there is no response.

I mistrust activists specially "peace activists". To me that is a code word for naive trouble maker. Most the time these people work hard to keep dictators in power. What is peace? When people are executed for speaking. When religious minorities are put in jail for no good reason. When laws are unjust and enforced with an Iron hand. I have several questions:

  • What kind of peace is it when IR gets to terrorize the people of Iran. Are they in peace or submission?  Is peace the same as submission.
  • What about Mossadegh pardoning Tahmasbi.
  • What about the hostage takers. Since we want to go back then should they be prosecuted for it.


bookrelease aka Hamid Karimianpour

by Reality-Bites on

Speaking for my own comment only, I didn't say that you are "defending the IRI", as you complain, rather than, in your article here, you have completely omitted to address the actions of the IRI that have contributed to where we are today in the US/Iran relations.

You are putting the onus solely on the US and inferring the blame for the status quo lies entirely with Washington. And you recycle the same old historical moans about the US foreign policy to support your assertions. That is not to say the US's past misdeeds and, in some cases disastrous policies (usually enacted to counter real or perceived Soviet threat and more recently the extremist Islam), should be ignored or denied, but rather that it is too simplistic and frankly disingenuous to the US/Iran dynamic to do so.

This kind of analysis echoes the one-sided 'always blame only the US and say nothing about the IRI's' view of the growing tensions between the two countries by groups likes of CASMII and until recently NIAC (NIAC have started to change their tune somewhat since the stolen 2009 election in Iran). I call it one-sided because I never see any mention of the deliberate and vigorous hostile posture adopted by the IRI towards the US over the past 32 years, in such analysis.

There seems to be no balance in your (and other like-minded commentators') assessment of this issue. Why is it that no mention is made of the fact that as soon as the IRI took power the constant “marg bar Amrika” chants and US flag burning rituals, which continue to this day, became the cornerstones of its approach to America and dealings with the West? We had “the Great Satan” long before we had “the Axis of Evil”.  Soon after there was the occupation and hostage taking of the US embassy staff in Tehran, that you referred to in your piece.

Not long after that, a suicide bombing, by a Lebanese extremist group backed by the IRI, killed 250 US peace keeping troops in Lebanon. There then followed the hostage taking of Westerns in Beirut by Hezbollah directly controlled by the IRI, in mid 1980s to early 1990s.

And now of course we have the IRI's continued sponsoring, harbouring and supporting extremist groups such as Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Muqtada al-Sadr and his Iraqi Shia militia to make mischief in the region, not to mention the ongoing nuclear issue dispute, which have all resulted in making Iran a pariah state and needlessly a potential target of external military attack at some point in the future. On top of all that, if you have followed the news reports recently, it looks like the IRI is now also engaged in covertly arming the Taliban (which it was previously opposed to).

So, are you really surprised that US might have contemplated military action against Iran and do you not think that if this potential calamity were to become reality, the IRI bears more than its share of responsibility? If not, why not? And if yes, then why don't you people ever say so?

Btw, just for the record, I am opposed to any external military action on Iran despite the horror of the IRI's rule, as this would unavoidably lead to loss of innocent lives and much destruction in the country, not to mention provide a convenient pretext for the IRI to ramp up repression. Iran's problems ultimately can only be solved by the Iranian people themselves.


Soosan Khanoom


by Soosan Khanoom on

I agree with you as well in what you have stated in terms of the responsibility for the present U.S and Iran hostile relationship should also be laid at the iRI .

I think both countries should be blamed equally .......

The hard liners in Iran follow no new policy but an old policy of someone who has been dead for more than 20 years ( khomeni ) .... who might have even changed his policy towards U.S if he was alive today .......  the current Leadership in Iran has no new agenda and has no guts to change anything ....... they are good for nothing and they are determined to ruin that country. 


Soosan Khanoom


by Soosan Khanoom on

name callings and labeling on this site is beyond belief. Unfortunately those who follow this type of behavior are too loud.  Just like the extremists around the world ..... they get more publicity than they deserve .  

I enjoyed reading you informative article.  Thanks for sharing .


A Response to Comments

by bookrelease on

I don't see this article as being against the US or as dwelling in the past conflicts. Neither is it defending the IRI, as some have suggested. It is only an excerpt from my book that deals with a piece of our history. Historians still write about the execution of Socrates, but that doesn't mean that they are seeking to punish today's Athenians. The comparison with Japan doesn't make sense. Japan was a military aggressor during WWII, unlike Mosaddegh who despite all his flaws and shortcomings, was not a military aggressor. After WWII, events changed and Japan moved on, which is precisely what I hope will happen with the US-Iranian relations too. But all options are still on the table with regard to Iran, and in this context it makes sense to evaluate what effects each of these options can make by reviewing the history. In fact, President Obama is known for reading history. Is he dwelling in the past?

The vitriolic language and name-callings by some of the reviewers on this site is reminiscent of the type of rhetoric often invoked by Ahmadinejad. It shows that they are reacting more emotionally than rationally.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dr. X

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


What happened in history does matter as a lesson. It should not be basis of revenge. I was never a big fan of Shah at the time. I just did not like the other alternatives. What happened to Yazdgird matters also. Should we take revenge of Arabs now? Or to blame all our problems on them? Many of us still do :-)

I am sick of people blaming everything on CIA. We should take responsibility. Think about future not get wrapped up in past. Othwerwise we will never move on.

Thankfully the Mossadegh crowd is getting old and will move on. The nation will find its way: without the hate that they are obsessed with. 


Dr. X


by Dr. X on

It is a mute point whether Mossadegh would have been better than the Shah. I dont think that is what the discussion is among Mossadegh supporters. The point is that many viewed the Shah as illegitimate after the 1953 CIA led coup. This is the same kind of argument the Shah supporters use when it comes to the 1979 revolution which brought Khomeini. They say Shah was good for Iran just because the changes brought about by the Islamic Republic have turned Iran into a shambles. Yes it is 60 year old history, but that doest mean lets just pretend it never happened and did not have an effect on the future of Iran.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

afshinazad jan

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I agree with you 100 %. We have a lot of people still whining about 1953. Folks that is history. We have no evidence that Mossadegh would have been any better than the Shah. This is just people avoiding responsibility.

What did Mossadegh do anyway:

  • He closed the parliament.
  • He nationalized oil knowing it would bring retaliation from Britain. Then got caught off guard and lost power. Is that the kind of leader we want?
  • The worst to me was his involvement in pardoning Khalil Tahmassebi. The murderer of Razmara.



Now let us take a closer look at this:

  • Tahmasbi murders Razmara.
  • Result is Mossadegh becomes prime minister.
  • Mossadegh repays him by pardoning him.

This is one of the most shameful and dishonorable acts anyone did. That effectively put Mossadegh seal of approval on the murder. How do we know this was not his plan? Very simple: Go kill Razmara; he becomes PM; he pardons you. Sick to core. I am personally glad Mossadegh was taken out of power. What a total ***. This act should be carved on his tomb. The man who pardoned Tahmasbi. Thank God CIA overthrew this man; at least we got 25 years of sanity.

I am not saying Mossadegh was behind the murder of Razmara. But I think he gave the appearance of approving of it. An honorable PM would have let Tahmasbi get the full punishment. Punishment for urder of PM should have been execution. Since I am opposed to death penalty I would have at least insisted on life in prison under harshest conditions. Not Mossadegh! He was perfectly fine with it! The REAL coup happened when Razmara was murdered not in 1953 by CIA.

Maryam Hojjat

VPOK, "Idiot Club"

by Maryam Hojjat on

Well said about these IRI/IRR apologists who often show up on this site.


Old hate never dies

by afshinazad on

we Iranain must growup and take a responsiblity for our own shortcoming. I hear a lot about 1953 coup which is getting way old and living in past doesn't makes us smart and for this writer I or some one must mention that MOSSADEGH was two year in power and what the hell he did, first thing he is done close the parliment and many other stupid things, which you must find out for yourself. Yes we know american done a lot of things and when you are super power it is quite normal and every super powers done it for thousands of years and stop complaining and morality doesn't come with power and stop support of IRI MORAL bullshit and this shameless person putining moral of Akhoonds before moral of american, America is good to live and shit in it for these type of people.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

The idiot club

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Yes Reality-Bites. There is a number of idiots who live in USA; but hate it. I do think they should form a club. I suggest we call them the  "Club of shameless Islamic Republic apologists".

We should have a blog here and name every one of them. It would be a list of shame.  We could start with this guy; Reza Aslan; Ardeshir Ommani and go on from there.

They do whine about the CIA coup. Look I do not like the coup but we got to get over it and focus on now. Does Japan whine about WWII: no! They got up and pulled themselves together. Now see where they are.

Instead these guys become "activists" meaning they whiner. This bunch. Will never give up. We the Iranian people need to give up on them. Don't buy their book and don't give pay attention to them.

Make it clear to all that the greater number of Iranians in the USA do not support these *** holes. In addition the sane Iranians need to speak up. Not just on IC but on forums that are heard by Americans.




Growing numbers

by Reality-Bites on

Yet another Iranian academic/political activist who is a critic of the US, but who, inexplicably, has chosen to live there! How many of these guys are there? They should form a club, if they haven't already. They'll have a lot of members.

As for the article, it's the same standard anti-US diatribe, still moaning abut the 1953 CIA coup, among others things, that's been posted countless times here and elsewhere, while at the same utterly failing to also address the other side of the coin and pointing out that the responsibility for the present US/Iran enmity should just as much be laid at the door of the Islamic Republic with its "marg bar Amrika" stance and its intransigent policies and actions.


Islamic Republic's

by vildemose on

Islamic Republic's anti-Americanism is not so political as it is Ideological.  No amount of good gestures is going to change that.     

Spot on.

That is the crux of the paradigm shift in US foreign policy as Kissinger had predicted that IRI wants to be a "cause" not a nation among others.


Lost Love


It was publicized that President Obama wrote to Khamenei not once but twice in a personal approach to open a dialog.  He received no personal response but rebuked publicly.  Islamic Republic has give United States numerous reasons for getting attacked.  It is the U.S. that has used discretion, political or otherwise not to engage on use of force.  Partly because of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If Islamic Republic does not change its mode of politics, at some opportune point U.S. and allies will focus on Iran militarily.  As of this year, the tone has already changed from sucking up to the government to supporting the people with the Human Rights issue.  Look for this to expand, because U.S. has finally realized that Islamic Republic's anti-Americanism is not so political as it is Ideological.  No amount of good gestures is going to change that.