Israel’s Gift to Iran’s Hardliners:
Cole at Tomdispatch

My essay on the anniversary of the protests in Iran and the ways in which Israeli and US Mideast policy has strengthened the hard liners is up at


‘ Iran’s Green Movement is one year old this Sunday, the anniversary of its first massive demonstrations in the streets of Tehran. Greeted with great hope in much of the world, a year later it’s weaker, the country is more repressive, and its hardliners are in a far stronger position — and some of their success can be credited to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sanctions hawks in the Obama administration.

If, in the past year, those hardliners successfully faced down major challenges within Iranian society and abroad, it was only in part thanks to the regime’s skill at repression and sidestepping international pressure. Above all, the ayatollahs benefited from Israeli intransigence and American hypocrisy on nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.

Iran’s case against Israel was bolstered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued enthusiasm for the Gaza blockade, and by Tel Aviv’s recent arrogant dismissal of a conference of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories, which called on Israel to join a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Nor has President Obama’s push for stronger sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council hurt them.

And then, on Memorial Day in the United States, Israel’s Likud government handed Tehran its greatest recent propaganda victory by sending its commandos against a peace flotilla in international waters and so landing its men, guns blazing, on the deck of the USS Sanctions . . . ‘

Read the whole thing.

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5 Responses

  1. Do you think it possible that this is in fact what Israel and the United States wish for? A strengthening of the hardliners?

  2. Thank you very much, Dr. Cole, for this long expected piece.

    All the elements are there, including the positioning for a potential military strike, even if the US lacks the strategic means while directly involved in two (three? four?) wars in the region, with direct commitment of large number of US troops in two of them. I have always wondered, and if you can illustrate me on that point, whether there is a US/Israel unofficial contemporary policy in the ME, that can be traced back to the infamous paper “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” (link to, written by Perle, Colbert, Feith, the Wurmsers, etc., the cream of the crop of the pro-Israel US establishment, for The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ “Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000,” in 1996, and which I am sure you know well.

    The paper, a policy document for Netanyahu, Israel’s PM at that time, can be read as a forecast of the recent ME history that has unfolded before our eyes, though the execution of those policies was only made possible with a little help from their friends, meaning US. The “rolling-back” of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, a prerequisite before “rolling-back” Syria, is now a fact, as real as many of the other aggressive (“defensive” in Israel’s security lingo) actions to be taken by Israel listed in the paper. Clearly, the authors or those who adopted this paper for their strategic planning in the region, didn’t expect some of these policies to go F.U.B.A.R., and lots of blood has ran since it was written, changing the ME landscape drastically, but I believe we can see the seed of Netanyahu’s hard, intransigent, strength-based, close-minded, current “leper state” policies of isolating Israel (as Shlomo Ben-Ami recently called Bibi’s and Barak’s policies), in that “Clean Break” paper from another era, so much has happened since we used it to prove WMD was not at all the reason to invade Iraq.

    A result of that unspoken policy is to render Israel’s neighbors incapable of developing parity with Israel on any realm, be that strategic weapons, technology, science, education, etc., and to always keeps them off-balance, cutting deep into their budgets for national security reasons, in an almost futile effort to defend their countries from nuclear-armed Israel. I believe the bombing of a country’s infrastructure, used by the US in vast amounts in Iraq, and practiced by Israel frequently, is the military extension of the same policy, by which the destruction created, forces the damaged countries to divert precious and scarce resources to rebuild their basic infrastructure, to be destroyed again at Israel’s whim, as it happened in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, several times. Therefore these countries are unable to invest in long-term development, since the specter of an Israeli aggression clouds permanently their strategic calculations. The “rolling-back” then, is not just applied to “regime-change”, but to “bombing ’em back to the stone age” constantly, keeping these countries busy rebuilding, or building defenses before the next Israeli attack.

    Israel’s almost bloodthirsty intention to bomb Iran, with or without the help of the US (but with its backing), can be explained in the light of this paper, and within the “rolling-back” policy. The US/Israel intentions are to use the bombing of nuclear centers in Iran, if that comes to be, as a pretext to “roll-back” Iran for 20, 30 0r 50 years, by bombing it “back to the stone age.”

    Thanks, Dr. Cole for your comments.

    N. Jaragua

  3. The reform movement in Iran will survive and will become stronger and stronger, and it will succeed one day, but – while surely you are right that US and Israel threats and humiliations against Iran strengthen the notorious hardliners in Iran – it would be quite amusing, were it not so utterly disgusting and nauseating, that you continue to try to sell us delusions, that Mousavi is not a hardliner in his own right, with blood (including US blood) on his hands; that Rafsanjani is not a hardliner in his own special way, the richest man in Iran with green green green eyes for the privatization of Iran’s oil; that the Green Coup wasn’t blatantly yet another US manipulated popular uprising, which betrayed the real longing for reform in Iran, with all-too-obvious parallels to the 1953 ‘uprising’, though with far more legitimate, large numbers caught up in it.

    In fact, the blatant manipulation of the reform movement in Iran made it all too easy for the hardliners to crack down. What would happen if a reform movement in the US was all-too-obviously sponsored in part by Russia and China? We all know what would happen. There would be blood running in the streets if such a movment did manage to organize a million people to march on DC. Apparent US manipulation of the Green Coup was a horrible betrayal of the people of Iran, and for the western corporatized media to participate in hyping that extravaganza of geo-political manipulation was predictable, but for western liberals to champion the Green Coup as they did was a horrific choice to double down on all that betrayal. Where were all those damn bleeding hearts when much more authentic reform movements, but ones not backed by US manipulations and western media hype, and ones not clad in designer jeans, met bloody defeats in Thailand and Honduras?!!!!!!! Where was all the damn facebook solidarity then?

    Oppression continues in Honduras as the anniversary of the Coup approaches …
    link to

    For those who care about oppression in the Middle East and Central Asia, the time of the Green Coup would have been a damn good time to talk about oppression in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel… does anyone think for a moment that a reform movement was ever remotely possible in those countries? Of course not. And it would have been a good time to talk about how US manipulated Color Coups in places like Ukraine and Georgia didn’t work out so well for the people who had to actually live in those countries, though it seemed to be a good deal for US geopolitical manipulations.

    But hey, maybe we can put all that seemingly flamingly hypocritical facebook love for Iran’s Green Coup down to the enthusiasm at the sight of people standing up for something . Still, one would have thought that thoughtful and experienced pundits would have recognizing that pouring out decontextualized hate against the Iran regime, in its struggle for survival, was maybe not so wise considering that such hate turned out to be exactly the sort of demonization that scuttled any possible Left antiwar resistance to Obama’s hardline Iran policy. That’s assuming that thoughtful and experienced pundits oppose ginned up wars and recognize that relentless confrontations between the US and Iran do more harm to reformers to Iran than anything else.

    Reform WILL triumph in Iran, but no damn thanks to the hypocrisies of Democrats in the US. If you want to point fingers of blame for the deaths and oppressions in Iran, don’t stop with the hardliners there so endlessly flogged by US political and media elites. Start looking at US ‘democracy promotion’ programs that 1)don’t promote democracy, that 2)sometimes put innocent human beings in harms way by associating true reformers with notorious US subversion programs. Then start looking at US political elites, of both parties that continue to root US foreign policy in notions of ‘national interest’ that really amount to latter day mercantilism, and in the ever-present methodology of threatened or inflicted Regime Change.

    Stop romanticizing the Green Coup, stop demonizing Iran’s leadership (they are bad, in many ways, but woefully par for the course, globally), and focus on opposing the Dems’ and Obama’s determination to hype the confrontation with Iran. It is that confrontation that blocks reform in Iran.

  4. If Iran did not possess oil, then the fundamentalists would probably have been overthrown long time ago. Fundamentalist are very good in some things and very bad in other things. Fundamentalists are very good in manipulating uneducated people to frenzy and mobilizing them. They are very good in suicide missions. Fundamentalist are very bad in economic development. Why? Because the fundamentalists are products of the complex mode of production in Iran. Iran’s mode of production being in part pre-modern pre-capitalist, in part modern and capitalist, and in part a combination of the two. A very large state sector exists along these modes.

    Khomeini’s movement began in opposition to the Shah’s modernization programs of land reform, and female franchise in June 1963. In 1953, fundamentalists sided with the Shah and the CIA coup. This includes Ayatollah Kashani, Brujerdi, Fadaian Islam, etc.

    Even after the revolution, Khomeini himself attacked Dr. Mossadegh and sided with the coup.

    link to

    Khomeini himself served as the envoy between Ayatollah Uzma Brujerdi and the Shah secretly bringing Brujerdi’s messages to the Shah.

    So, once fundamentalists come to power, they do not have a coherent economic plan. If Iran did not have the huge oil reserves that provides billions and billions of dollars every single year to the state, the fundamentalists could not survive.

    Winners and Losers
    The major losers include Ahmadinejad and Khamenei
    link to

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