Modal close

Hi there,

This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.

Donate

“Incoherent Policy”: U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Iran Even as Trump Admits Iran Following Nuclear Deal

Listen
Media Options
Listen

The State Department has announced new sanctions against Iran over alleged support for terrorism and Iran’s ballistic missile program. The move will blacklist 18 people accused of having ties to Iran’s military, freezing any of their U.S. assets. The new U.S. sanctions came just after the Trump administration begrudgingly certified that Iran has complied with its obligations under the Obama-brokered nuclear agreement. According to the magazine Foreign Policy, Trump has instructed a group of trusted White House staffers to make the potential case for withholding certification of Iran at the next 90-day review of the nuclear deal. We speak to Ervand Abrahamian, a retired professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of several books, including “The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations.”

Related Story

Video squareStoryFeb 13, 2018“It’s Hard to Believe, But Syria’s War Is Getting Worse”: World Powers Clash as Civilian Deaths Soar
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The State Department has announced new sanctions against Iran over allegedly supporting terrorism and the country’s ballistic missile program. The move will blacklist 18 people accused of having ties to Iran’s military, freezing any of their U.S. assets. The new U.S. sanctions came just after the Trump administration begrudgingly certified that Iran has complied with its obligations under the Obama-brokered nuclear agreement. According to the magazine Foreign Policy, Trump has instructed a group of his trusted White House staffers to make the potential case for withholding certification of Iran at the next 90-day review of the nuclear deal.

AMY GOODMAN: The move was made after President Trump reportedly had a contentious meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who recertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, calling it the worst deal ever.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Ervand Abrahamian. He is a retired professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York, author of several books, including The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Start off by responding to what just happened last week, Trump certifying the deal and then saying he’s increasing sanctions and now looking how to sanction Iran more.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Well, to borrow his own word, it’s sad. Well, what it really is, an incoherent policy. The idea—of course, before, he was going to tear up the whole agreement, and he’s discovered it’s much more complicated than that. It’s an agreement between Iran and not just United States, but really the major economies of the world. And if the U.S. wants to say they pull out or even add sanctions, what Iran will do is just go ahead with its own policy of trying to improve relations with Europe. And it already has good relations with China and Russia. So, the net result, I think, will be the loss for large revenues for United States corporations, because once Iran begins to produce a lot of income from gas, it will sign contracts with the Europeans, the Chinese, Russians, and the U.S. corporations are going to be left out in the cold.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the significance of several members of his own administration pushing back on the president, on his campaign promises around Iran?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yes, I mean, on both sides. I mean, there was hope, I would guess, from the extreme right, that he would really tear up the whole agreement. That’s not going to work, because now he’s in there. He knows that agreement is actually a very good agreement for the United States, as well as for Iran. But then there are others who are arguing, I think, that it would be better to have good relations, or at least normal relations, because there would be an opening for U.S. businesses there.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you make of—and, again, you know, we don’t have original sources on this, but this conflict between Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, who is the secretary of state and has had many dealings with Iran—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —over the years—right?—as CEO of ExxonMobil—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —versus Trump?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah, I’m sure he sees it from Exxon’s point of view, that if Exxon isn’t in the running, there are other companies, like Total has already signed a major agreement. If not Total, a Chinese company or Shell. So it’s really a question of die-hard business interests versus some sort of incoherent ideology.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, oil has always been at the center of Western policy toward Iran. And you’ve written about some recently released documents that date back to the 1953 coup of the—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —organized by the CIA against the democratically elected leader of Iran.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about that and also why it’s taken so long for these latest documents to be released?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Well, as you say, it’s so long ago. And actually, according to rules—there’s a 30-year rule, so documents that are—could be released are. It’s taken three decades of beyond that before the State Department released these. It’s like pulling teeth out of someone. And the reason, when you look at it, is that—well, there are two reasons. One is that what the documents show is actually the importance of oil in the coup. The conventional wisdom is, oh, it was all the Cold War scare, communism. But here you see, actually, very occasionally, when Eisenhower intervenes in a discussion, it’s about question of oil contracts and so on and how nationalization would disrupt the whole international framework and would be a threat to U.S. interests, oil interests, elsewhere.

But another, I think, reason they have been so reluctant to publish these documents is that it shows how involved the U.S. Embassy was, the ambassador, in internal Iranian affairs. It’s like looking at an imperial power in a semi-colonial situation. The ambassador acts basically like a viceroy, involved in many different internal policy. He often says, “Oh, of course, it’s not my business to be involved in internal policy,” but then he goes ahead and, in fact, does get involved.

And the astounding discovery, I was surprised, is how CIA was involved in the elections that were held in 1952 during the Mosaddegh period. And what their strategy was to undermine Mosaddegh through Parliament. And a lot of money went into basically getting what the CIA thought would be their favorable candidates elected. And this we didn’t know before. But then you would see also that when they talk about, well, we need to get rid of Mosaddegh, they have 18 candidates the U.S. discusses who is suitable to have the next—

AMY GOODMAN: But when you talk about what wasn’t known and what was, you’re a professor, but most people don’t even know what was known, was the deep U.S.-CIA involvement—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —with Allen Dulles, the brother of John Foster Dulles—Allen Dulles, head of the CIA—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —John Foster Dulles, secretary of state—who, together—and then, of course, there’s Eisenhower—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —and others who engineer this coup, using Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt—

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —as the bag guy, the guy who comes with bags of money and actually overthrows Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected leader.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah. But, actually, even there, what we—the conventional wisdom was you had the Truman administration, and then, when Eisenhower came in, the machinery is put for the coup, and it was the Eisenhower administration, with Kermit Roosevelt and Dulles, doing it. What these documents show, which is astounding, before Eisenhower, under the Truman administration, there was actually a deep state. And the deep state in the CIA were exactly Dulles and Kermit Roosevelt. They were in charge of the Iran desk in the CIA, long—from 1951, long before the Eisenhower. So they were pushing for real action in Iran before Eisenhower came in. And they were working very closely with the British before the Eisenhower administration.

AMY GOODMAN: And they tried to get Kermit Roosevelt to do the same thing the next year, in 1954, in Guatemala. He refused, but they did it anyway and overthrew the democratically elected leader in Guatemala, Árbenz.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And when we hear discussions today about Russia interfering with our elections, I think it’s very important for people to understand U.S. history.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you a last question about The New York Times last month naming the so-called dark prince to run the Iran operations, signaling a tougher stance, The New York Times reporting Michael D’Andrea now running the CIA’s Iran operations. He oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden, American drone strike campaign, that kills thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians. Your thoughts when you heard this and the anger of the Trump administration of revealing his name?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: I don’t know the politics of that, really. I think, again, they’re very confused about what to do with Iran. And this is a reflection of that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m just wondering if, in the documents—we’ve got about 30 seconds—you can across the name of Donald Wilhelm at all, who was a CIA guy who went to Iran after, after the overthrow of Mosaddegh, and who was actually the mayor’s—Mayor Bill de Blasio’s uncle?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yeah, he actually co-ghostwrote the shah’s memoirs.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: It would be interesting to know something about—more about the family history. I don’t think there would be much political discussions between this part of the family and that part. He was kind of a CIA academic.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will leave it there. Ervand Abrahamian, thanks so much for being with us, retired professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

Newly Declassified Documents Confirm U.S. Backed 1953 Coup in Iran Over Oil Contracts

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop