An unsavoury alliance

‘Regime change from above’ cannot be ruled out, writes Yassamine Mather

Over the last couple of weeks Iranian leaders have shown unprecedented signs of paranoia about a possible US attack against the country. However, just because they are paranoid it does not mean we should dismiss the possibility that the current US administration’s policies will lead to a third US ground war in the Middle East since 2001. There are various statements and some anecdotal evidence that point towards this scenario.

One of the most serious comments came from US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who openly called for regime change in Iran and noted: “Our Iranian policy is under development.” In early June he was asked if the US supports a “philosophy of regime change inside Iran”. His reply was: “We are working with elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition” in that country. He added:

We certainly recognise Iran’s continued destabilising presence in the region, their payment of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, their support for Hezbollah. And we are taking action to respond to Iran’s hegemony. Additional sanctions actions have been put in place against individuals and others.

The son of the deposed shah, Reza Pahlavi, has echoed this in a number of interviews with exiled royalist media outlets, while making also the bizarre claim that such “regime change” will be “peaceful”. Unlike the regime change in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban or in Iraq to overthrow Saddam, obviously. If we accept this, we must also believe that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iraqi Shia government and the Assad dictatorship in Syria will all throw in the towel.

I am no fan of any of the above. In fact I consider the Islamic Bassij and Revolutionary Guards, inside and outside Iran, as the enemy of the peoples of the region. However, no-one in their right mind should underestimate the kind of resistance they will show, should their role in the region be undermined. Reza Pahlavi is clearly more delusional than his father or his pro-Nazi grandfather.

The response from Iran’s ministry of foreign affairs was predictable. Spokesman Bahram Qassemi called Tillerson’s comments “interventionist” and “in gross violation of the compelling rules of international law”. Such “unacceptable” remarks should be “strongly condemned”. He reminded the world of the consequences of the 1953 US intervention in Iran - regime change undertaken against the elected premier, Mohammad Mossadegh, to be replaced by the shah, who, according to documents recently released by the US state department, did not actually want to go back to the country. He had called on western governments to ensure his future income in the US!

Although we knew about the CIA role in the 1953 coup, details of the involvement of the US embassy read like fiction. Professor Ervand Abrahamian summarises details of the embassy’ role:

It vetted candidates for parliament - the CIA congratulated itself for its “great success” in the 1952 parliamentary elections. It recruited journalists, clerics and politicians. It experimented with outside-the-box ideas, such as creating a ‘Titoist party’. It encouraged the Fedayyan-e Islam, a small gang of religious fanatics, to take “direct action” against government supporters. It waged constant ‘psychological warfare’, that included hiring goons to beat up demonstrators and newspaper sellers, as well as resorting to “poison pens, personal denunciations and rumour-mongering”. These activities were all categorised as “moral sabotage”1.


An example of anecdotal evidence for regime change from above happened over the weekend June 30-July 1, when a number of close Trump allies - Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and not forgetting prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia - attended the annual show put on by the Iranian religious cult, Mojahedin-e Khalq, in Paris. The Al Arabiya news agency associated with the Saudis could not contain its enthusiasm: “A vast convention hall located north of Paris was the scene of a massive Iranian diaspora gathering, who voiced their demand for a better future through regime change in Tehran.” (Al Arabiya makes Fox News look like an intelligent media outlet.)

Fact check: Mojahedin-e Khalq has lost the majority of its members since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and subsequent forced relocations - the latest from camp Ashraf in Iraq to Albania. Like previous years most of those attending the Paris event were rent-a-crowd east Europeans, paid for courtesy of US/Saudi regime change funds. Even the US-funded Radio Free Iran admits the group pays east Europeans to attend its annual ritual in Paris. This is from their 2013 report of the event:

Kyrgyz student Alina Alymkulova recounts how she was recruited to travel from Prague to Paris to attend a rally for the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) …

“I arrived at a bus station in Prague along with a friend, a fellow student from Kyrgyzstan. Just as the trip organiser said last night, there were eight buses waiting to take us to Paris. Most of the ‘protestors’ were young and obviously students like me. I met many Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs and students from Asian countries, who were all recruited via the internet.”2

Al Arabiya also quotes the main message of MKO leader Maryam Rajavi: “Islamic State cannot be defeated until Iran’s Islamic Republic is overthrown.” Unlike ill-informed US politicians, including Donald Trump, here the widow of misogynist cult leader Massoud Rajavi and current head of the loonies is not referring to Iran funding Islamic State. Her comment might be interpreted as an explanation for the raison d’être of IS - the reason why Sunni Wahabi groups flourished in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. The problem is her solution, however: more wars, more invasions, with even more apocalyptic consequences for the region.

Of course, for a political group totally dependent on Saddam Hussein in the last decade of the Iraqi dictator’s rule, Mrs Rajavi’s nostalgia for the good old days of Saddam and Saudi dominance in region is understandable. Yet it is ironic that John Bolton and Newt Gingrich, who supported regime change in Iraq, should be in the same room as Saddam’s former protégés, the Mojahedin-e Khalq. Leaving aside the irony, both sides are now singing from the same hymn sheet - provided by their financial sponsor, Saudi Arabia. Prince Turki bin Faisal explained it like this: “The Iranian regime is looking for more crises and is therefore using militias to pressure other countries.”

Rudy Giuliani, who probably lost a senior post in the Trump administration because of allegations that he made a fortune by lobbying for unsavoury governments, told the Paris gathering: “You, I, my government and your leadership, we see Iran in exactly the same way. The regime is evil and it must go.”

As for Newt Gingrich, he stated:

I think it’s fair to say that the Trump administration has much fewer illusions about the nature of the Iranian dictatorship. I think it’s fair to say that secretary of defense Mattis in his years in the central command understands exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is … I think it’s fair to say that the national security advisor, general McMaster, in his years of service in the Middle East, knows exactly who the Iranian dictatorship is.3

There are a number of other pointers regarding possible escalation of the US action against Iran:

Why now?

Ironically it is IS’s military defeat in Mosul and Raqqa that could be behind the current escalation of conflict in the Middle East.

After months of bloodshed and bitter fighting, the capture of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque - the very location used by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to launch his Sunni caliphate in Iraq in 2014 - marks a significant breakthrough for the Shia government in Baghdad and its allies, the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. However, many of the displaced citizens of Mosul do not share Iran’s objectives in the city. Some Mosul inhabitants, although grateful for the defeat inflicted on IS, are expressing their concerns about Iranian influence in the city. Many claim that Mosul now has the look and feel of a Shia city, with Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia groups and Iranian forces making their mark on areas taken from Islamic State.

Meanwhile, American air strikes have helped the US-led anti-IS coalition to the point where it is near to taking Raqqa. Iran and its Syrian ally are worried about losing out in Raqqa, while the US is concerned about Mosul. In other words, the weakening of Islamic State and its potential military defeat in the region is pointing to further conflict in the region. Iran and Saudi Arabia are confronting each other on a number of fronts and US threats of military action can only make a bad situation worse.



  1. https://lobelog.com/ new-revelations-of-the-us-in-iran
  2. www.rferl.org/a/iran-mko-ncri-rally-diary/25029410.html.
  3. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/07/01/Rajavi-Only-way-to-eliminate-ISIS-is-to-overthrow-regime-in-Tehran.html.