West Asia to be under U.S. hegemonic control without Iran’s resistance: Richard Falk

February 7, 2022 - 23:19

TEHRAN– Richard Falk says that without the resistance and steadfastness of Iran, the entire West Asia region would be under the hegemonic control of the U.S., with regional junior partners of Israel and Saudi Arabia/UAE.

Between January 1978 and February 11, 1979, the Muslim revolutionary people of Iran, under the wise leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Founder of the Islamic Revolution, voiced their oppositions against the secular and U.S.-backed rule of Mohamad Reza Shah.

Today, after 43 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran, under the leadership of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is at the forefront of the fight against global arrogance and oppressive powers like the United States and the Zionist Regime. 

All these years, Iran has been under maximum political pressure and economic sanctions. The victory of the Iranian revolution as a new equation in various fields was able to change the political geography, political and geopolitical situation of the region. Part of this change was due to the nature of the Islamic Revolution discourse, which was defined as a strategic roadmap even before the Revolution.

In an interview with Mehr News Agency, Richard Anderson Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former UN official shared his views on the reasons for putting maximum political pressure and imposing economic sanctions on Iran for more than 4 decades after Islamic Revolution.

Following is the text of our interview with him:

Q: What has been the role of the Iranian revolution in your opinion in changing regional equations and as an obstacle in the new world order?

The Iranian Revolution overturned Pahlavi dynastic rule more than a decade before the end of the Cold War. Its immediate effect was widely regarded as a major strategic setback for the United States with important negative geopolitical and economic implications. One consequence was to offset the setback by upgrading the U.S. to the strategic value of its ‘special relationship’ with Israel. A second consequence was to convey to political movements in Islamic countries the historical potential of Islamic populism. The impact of Iran’s revolution was especially strong throughout the Arab world, especially the [Persian] Gulf monarchies and North Africa, whose regimes were threatened by this dramatic indication that politics-from-below could mount an effective challenge to a repressive political order.
United States interpreted the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as acts of war, which produced the Global War on Terror, culminating in the 2003 U.S./U.K. aggression against Iraq and the subsequent military occupation of Iraq. A principal justification for this undertaking in defiance of international law was the containment of Iranian influence in the region. With the Cold War over, the regional alignments were increasingly shaped by tensions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Arab world, often depicted as a Sunni reaction to the spread of Shi’a influence. In other words, for the secular West political Islam was cast as international enemy #1 after the demise of the Soviet Union.  

It is doubtful that the uprisings comprising the Arab Spring 0f 2010-11would have occurred without the precedent of the Iranian Revolution. In the aftermath, the strength of Islamic sentiments in several countries rose to the surface, perhaps most spectacularly in the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt won by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi. This outcome alarmed secular and reactionary forces in the region, especially among the [Persian] Gulf monarchies, Israel, and national political elites, generating a counterrevolutionary backlash in several countries and Western intervention in others. 

Looking back at the Iranian Revolution it is notable that it has endured despite U.S./Israeli coercive diplomacy consisting of threats, covert acts of assassination, destabilizing violence, and a variety of sanctions. In contrast, the democratizing movements in the Arab world were quickly reversed or resulted in prolonged civil strife or prolonger crises of ungovernability. In this atmosphere, Iran has opposed regional and global intervention in its own internal affairs, and still had the energy and commitment to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza. This durability of the Iran Revolution is a remarkable organizational achievement considering the plight being experienced by the rest of the Middle East (West Asia).

As this 43rd-anniversary approaches, Iran seems to be giving diplomacy of accommodation one last chance in the Vienna Talks designed to renew U.S. participation in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement (also known as JCPOA). If this diplomacy fails either in the coming months or in the future, it seems likely that Iran will respond by deepening its relations with China and Russia. Already in the long civil war in Syria, Iran and Russia performed as the main allies of the Damascus government, suggesting that realignment trends will continue in years to come.

Q: What were the reasons for the increase in economic and political pressures on Iran after the Islamic Revolution?

As already indicated, the Shah had been a close, subservient ally of the United States, defying the regional consensus by maintaining friendly diplomatic and economic relations with Israel and apartheid South Africa, as well as providing a reliable source of needed oil at affordable prices and a major source of profitability for American and European private oil companies. During the period between 1953 and 1979, the U.S. influence in Iran was at its height, with a reprivatized energy sector, a large American military presence insulated from accountability to Iranian law, including thinly disguised CIA influences on the policies and practices adopted by the Peacock Throne. The change of government in Iran 43 years ago meant the immediate end of such a dependent relationship with the United States and produced hostility from Washington and concern centering on recollections of the 1953 coup that brought the Shah back to power overthrowing the democratically elected government of Mossadegh. This break with the past was strongly confirmed by the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran late in the autumn of 1979, consolidating the revolutionary leadership of Iran while expressing hostility toward the past U.S. role in Iran and an unwillingness to seek diplomatic legitimacy by an accommodation with the U.S.

There were also worries about the spread of Islamically oriented politics throughout the region, especially after the 2001 attacks on the U.S. Although those attacks emanated from Afghanistan they produced an Islamophobic backlash in the West that intensified hostility toward Iran, increasingly focusing on its nuclear program and alleged regional activities. Iran’s solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and criticism of Israel as an illegitimate state should be seen as extensions of the Islamic Revolution. Israel reacted by efforts to destabilize Iran and inhibit its activities, resorting to such unlawful tactics as assassinating nuclear scientists and leading figures, threatening military attacks, and promoting destabilization in Iran. This approach reached new extremes during the ‘maximum pressures’ approach of the Trump presidency.

The strong show of support for the Palestinian struggle to achieve basic rights in their own homeland gave rise to an Israeli resolve to achieve regime change in Israel by all available means. Apparently discouraged by the failure of these tactics of indirect warfare, Israeli recently has recently manifested a growing willingness to act alone, if necessary, by recourse to overt, major aggressive uses of force. The rationalization given is the contention that Iran’s nuclear program, even if regulated by an international agreement, poses an existential security threat to Israel. The U.S. under Biden has acquiesced in Israel’s escalation while at the same time purporting to restore the 2015 agreement and grant long-overdue sanctions relief to the Iranian people. Biden’s inconsistent diplomacy seems at best an awkward balancing act. Viewed more realistically Biden is basically maintaining continuity with the Trump/Netanyahu approach to Iran while seeking for public relations purposes to seem to be pursuing a more moderate and reasonable approach.

Q: To what extent has the Islamic Revolution of Iran been able to prevent the implementation of U.S. plans and its hegemony in the region?

Since 1979 Iran more than any other country in the Middle East (West Asia) has completed the process of fulfilling the right of self-determination enjoyed by all peoples, not only gaining formal political independence but ending economic, diplomatic, and ideological dependence on the West for its stability and legitimacy. In this crucial sense, Iran alone among countries in the region has completed the work of decolonization, which includes ridding the government and economy of foreign controlling influence. As such, the 43 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran amount to the reproach of the other countries in the region that have nominal independence but whose political elites can only retain power by leaning on outside support.

I think that without the resistance and steadfastness of the Islamic Revolution of Iran the entire Middle East (West Asia) would be under the hegemonic control of the U.S., with regional junior partners of Israel and Saudi Arabia/UAE. In Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine Iran has opposed and neutralized local political moves to actualize U.S. hegemonic ambitions throughout the Middle East (West Asia)

The fact that Iran is celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution is itself evidence that this post-colonial, post-Cold War effort to control the political future of the Middle East (West Asia) for the benefit of Western geopolitical, economic, and ideological interests can be successfully resisted, although at a high cost. Iran’s record of resistance is especially notable because the U.S., Israel, and the [Persian] Gulf monarchies made it a high priority to destabilize and if possible achieve a counterrevolutionary restoration of dynastic rule in Iran. This struggle is not over, but the durability of Iran for more than four decades is an achievement well worth celebrating. It is to be hoped that in future revolutionary anniversaries, Iran can also celebrate its achievement for its own people, including the robust protection of human rights.  

Richard Anderson Falk is the author or coauthor of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967."