By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger—
Learning from mistakes?
*Ten days before the toppling of the Shah of Iran, President Carter told a conference of world leaders on the Island of Guadeloupe that a Khomeini-led Iran “would not export revolution… and would be interested in buying tractors, not tanks…. On January 11, six days before the toppling of the Shah, “the CIA assessed that Khomeini would sit back and let his moderate, Western educated followers run the government….”
*On the eve of the toppling of the Shah, US Ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, argued that Khomeini and the armed forces were anti-Communist, that “Khomeini would play a Gandhi-like role, and that elections would be likely to produce a pro-Western Islamic republic….”
*Five months before the toppling of the Shah, an August 1978 CIA study concluded that “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation.”
*According to Winston Churchill, “all men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
Moreover, making mistakes could be a productive experience, if one avoids repeating them.
*Have US policy-makers learned from past mistakes by avoiding – or repeating – them?
The pre-1978/79 mistaken policy on the Islamic Revolution dealt a devastating blow to Middle East stability, generated a robust tailwind to Islamic terrorism, and severely undermined US national and homeland security.
As a result of this dramatically flawed policy, Persia was transformed from “Iran” to “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” and from “the American policeman of the Gulf” to a global epicenter of anti-Americanism, stretching its rogue presence from Central Asia, through the Middle East and Africa to Latin America, all the way to the US-Mexico border.
*Notwithstanding the mega-billion dollar bonanza of the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran’s Ayatollahs have persisted in perceiving the US as “The Great Satan” and the mega-hurdle on their way to advance their mega-goal: the subordination of Western culture and the entire globe to Islamic Shiite dominance.
Dramatic mistakes of the 1978/79 US policy on Iran
*On November 9, 1978, US Ambassador Sullivan sent his “Thinking the Unthinkable” cable, contending that US interests could be protected in a post-Shah Islamic government. Opposition leaders such as Bazargan would lead a new government, that would depend on the US-oriented Iranian military. Khomeini would return to Iran in triumph and hold a Gandhi-like position in the political constellation. Iran could still be counted on by the US to fulfill its role as defender of the northern tier.
*The late British Prof. Eli Kedourie, who was a game-changing Middle East historian, exposed fundamental fumbles in US policy on Iran: “US Ambassador Sullivan argued that Khomeini and the armed forces were anti-Communist…. that elections would produce a pro-Western Islamic republic…. In Washington, there was a chorus of academic and official voices singing the praises of Khomeini…. Princeton University’s Richard Falk… Khomeini’s entourage were committed to a struggle against all forms of oppression…and strong belief in minority rights…. Khomeini’s Islamic Republic could be expected to have a doctrine of social justice at its core…flexible at interpreting the Koran…. The Islamic republic will be a stabilizing element geopolitically…. The State Department believed that Khomeini intended to set up a government drawn from moderate secular politicians, with Ayatollah Khomeini remaining in the background as a guiding political and spiritual force…. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Harold Saunders, declared that he did not sense a strong anti-American feeling among the leaders of Iran…. Brzezinski told that the US government is prepared to expand security, economic, political and intelligence relationships…. A profound and systematic misunderstanding of Khomeini and what he stood for….”