Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pepe Escobar covers the huge Latin American landscape for Asia Times Online.
PEPE ESCOBAR, TRNN ANALYST: The American conflict with Iran, in fact, it started way before 1953, when they wanted all the oil, of course, and Mosaddeq was a nationalizer. So Mosaddeq–out. Then came the Shah, who was a big friend of America. In fact, Iran at the time was a colony. I would say the ’60s and the ’70s, until the late ’70s, was an American colony in terms of exploitation of natural resources, and the Shah was, in his own words, “le gendarme” of the Americans in the Middle East. Then, with the Islamic revolution, like in Iran, Iran has this pendulum in its history. Iran has always a pendulum between monarchy and religion. So after monarchy—the Shah—came predominance of religion: Ayatollah Khomeini. And obviously America lost the “gendarme” and lost the oil. And this is a coup that they never recovered. So, basically, they want to reestablish the status quo in the ’60s and the ’70s with the Shah. They would love to have a kind of son-of-Shah regime in Tehran, which would be supported by, I would say, part of the middle classes in Tehran, and obviously the exiled Iranian community, especially in California, in Paris, in London, and parts of the Middle East. It’s not what the majority of the Iranian population want; the majority of the Iranian population, they are tired of the mullahs and the ayatollahs as well. They would like a modern, more open country. But they don’t want a country, which sells off its natural wealth to foreigners, especially the Americans. So that’s a huge difference. Ahmadinejad, for instance, he was elected by the downtrodden in Iran, because in his campaign he was basically anti-Ayatollah, anti-establishment. He says, look, I’m a street cleaner of people, and I’m here to defend you poor guys, and I’m going to improve your wellbeing. He hasn’t delivered, first of all because he’s incompetent in economic terms, and his team is extremely incompetent in economic terms as well. But this is what the majority of the Iranian population want: They want a stable government, very nationalistic, very protective of Iran’s wealth, projecting Iranian power in the Middle East and beyond, regionally–“We need our nuclear program for civilian purposes, of course. We don’t want to attack anybody like we haven’t attacked anybody in 250 years. But we also don’t want foreign interference. We’re doing our deals with China, with Russia. We want to deal with the European Union and sell them gas, because the European Union wants Iranian gas as well to counterbalance Russian influence.” And it would like to have a meaningful, decent relationship with the United States. They have nothing–the Iranian population–they have absolutely nothing against the United States. What they have is against aggressive American foreign policy. So this has to be—you know, you never see a debate like this in the American press, where it’s clear-cut. There’s enormous difference between what different factions in the Iranian government think, what the Ayatollahs think, what the middle classes in Iran think, what the poor think, and what the extremists, which are an extreme minority, I would say, in Iran think as well. The Iranian nuclear program is not a real issue. It never was. It will never be. Like, take for instance Brazil. Brazil also has a nuclear civilian program. And you don’t see anybody on Wall Street or in Washington saying that Brazil is going to work to have a tropical bomb in the next two years. So this is completely absurd.
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