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Fact Checking the NY Times on the History of Iran

James Taranto of the WSJ:

The Times makes it sound as if the cease-fire with Iraq and the death of Khomeini were the proximate causes of the Iranian “eruption.” But they weren’t proximate at all: The former event occurred in August 1988; the latter, in June 1989. The conflicts might have begun to brew back then, but they did not erupt until more than 20 years later.

What happened in the interim? Iranian expat columnist Amir Taheri reports that the mad mullahs have one theory:

Tehran’s bizarre narrative goes something like this: During the Bush administration, “the neocons” persuaded the president to “green light” efforts to topple the regime. Somehow, Washington enlisted the support of “world Freemasonry,” which, acting through the so-called Bilderburg Group, managed to persuade Iran’s then-President Muhammad Khatami to join secret efforts to “turn Iran into a secular state.”

Then, the tale goes, [George] Soros and several US think tanks started sending their agents to Iran to recruit and train operatives for regime change. And the Bush administration created a special Iran center in Dubai, modeled on the Riga Center that Washington set up to subvert the Soviet Union in the 1930s. With Liz Cheney as the supposed coordinator, the plot supposedly soon won the support of several European countries.

But Christopher Hitchens of Slate offers a more plausible hypothesis:

Did the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the subsequent holding of competitive elections in which many rival Iraqi Shiite parties took part, have any germinal influence on the astonishing events in Iran? Certainly when I interviewed Sayeed Khomeini [the ayatollah’s grandson and a regime foe] in Qum some years ago, where he spoke openly about “the liberation of Iraq,” he seemed to hope and believe that the example would spread. One swallow does not make a summer. But consider this: Many Iranians go as religious pilgrims to the holy sites of Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq. They have seen the way in which national and local elections have been held, more or less fairly and openly, with different Iraqi Shiite parties having to bid for votes (and with those parties aligned with Iran’s regime doing less and less well). They have seen an often turbulent Iraqi Parliament holding genuine debates that are reported with reasonable fairness in the Iraqi media. Meanwhile, an Iranian mullah caste that classifies its own people as children who are mere wards of the state puts on a “let’s pretend” election and even then tries to fix the outcome. Iranians by no means like to take their tune from Arabs–perhaps least of all from Iraqis–but watching something like the real thing next door may well have increased the appetite for the genuine article in Iran itself.

Of course, if Hitchens is right, there is a grain of truth to the mullahs’ theory. The neocons, after all, did play a supporting role in the liberation of Iraq.


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