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Iranians are naive to assume they will depend on fair-weather pals

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Within the lifeless of a heat summer season’s night time in Tehran, my cousin and I crept out of my aunt’s home, carrying a pot of black paint. We tiptoed previous the swimming pool and stealthily let ourselves out on the finish of the backyard.

It was 1978, we had been youngsters and we had plucked up the braveness to embark on an act of (modest) political resistance. I lived in London however spent each summer season with my household in our native Iran. I had recognized no authorities in that nation aside from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s dictatorship. That 12 months, chinks had appeared in his armour-plated rule. Civil disobedience picked up tempo, propelling a revolution and a tumultuous finish to his 38-year reign.

These mass demonstrations nonetheless lay forward that night time as we looked for an acceptable wall on which to daub our message. I stood looking out, my coronary heart thumping in concern of being caught by Savak, the Shah’s dreaded secret police. A couple of years earlier, Amnesty Worldwide had described Iran as having “a historical past of torture which is past perception”.

My cousin hurriedly painted and we made a run for it, leaving “Lengthy Reside Mossadegh” glistening in daring, black letters on the pale plaster. It was not essentially the most logical slogan — the previous prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh had been lifeless for 11 years. However the man who had wrested Iranian oil out of the palms of the British in 1951 (earlier than Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal) was and stays a nationwide hero and an emblem of democracy to most Iranians.

Because the Islamic Republic marks its 41st anniversary this month and US president Donald Trump tightens sanctions on the nation, Mossadegh’s legacy is as related because it has ever been. His overthrow in 1953, in a coup staged by the British and American intelligence businesses, was the topic of an exciting documentary, Coup 53, proven on the London Movie Pageant final November.

Taghi Amirani, its Iranian director, spent a decade uncovering new materials about Britain’s position in a self-serving putsch that arguably helped gasoline the anger of the 1979 revolution. Kermit Roosevelt Jr, the CIA operative and grandson of former US president Theodore, wrote a boastful guide concerning the CIA’s position, known as Countercoup, however the UK most popular to say as little as attainable about its involvement.

What’s placing right this moment, greater than six a long time after the coup, is that the US — a rustic that’s nearly as distant from Iran geographically as it’s attainable to be — continues to be in search of to undermine an Iranian authorities. Whereas Mr Trump has not known as overtly for its overthrow, his former nationwide safety adviser John Bolton tweeted last month that he hoped the assassination of Iran’s Normal Qassem Soleimani marked “step one to regime change in Tehran”.

No matter hopes Iranians have for his or her nation, they might do effectively to do not forget that, as in 1953, the US administration has its personal, not their, pursuits at coronary heart. “America First” is a reasonably clear mantra. If Mr Trump cared about Iran and its individuals, he wouldn’t be threatening to bomb the nation’s wealthy cultural heritage, as he did final month.

If Mr Bolton cared about democracy in Iran, he wouldn’t be supportive of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a far-left Islamic group. The MEK, which is predicated in Albania, fought in opposition to Iranians on the facet of Iraq within the brutal eight-year struggle launched by Saddam Hussein in 1980. It was categorized by the US as a terrorist organisation till as just lately as 2012.

Nor ought to American international coverage within the broader area give Iranians any cause for reassurance. To Iran’s east lies Afghanistan, the place the facility of the Taliban (which accurately took intention at its personal cultural heritage, destroying its historical Buddhist statues at Bamyan) nonetheless holds sway greater than 20 years after the US first bombed after which invaded the nation. To its west lies a devastated Iraq, nonetheless occupied by the US after Washington invaded in 2003, with its instability spilling over into the tragedy that’s Syria right this moment.

Iranians don’t want fair-weather pals. A rustic of 80m individuals can and should rely by itself sources if it needs to have any likelihood of controlling its future. To assume in any other case is to be as naive as a pair of idealistic youngsters.

scheherazade.daneshkhu@ft.com

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