The 1953 MI6 and CIA-led coup in Iran changed the world. It gave absolute power to the Shah but strengthened the resolve of the opposition. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution dethroned the Shah and created an Islamic republic. Despite draconian American sanctions, Iran transitioned from being a lackey of the US to becoming politically self-assured and independent. It has emerged as a regional power challenging the US hegemony in the region. Once totally dependent on the US military supplies and other imports, Iran now produces much of its own weaponry and other products. In fact, its drones are even considered a game-changer in the Russia-Ukraine War.
Since 1979, Iran has challenged the US-led Western countries across the world. For instance, Iran opposed apartheid in South Africa at a time when the US supported the racist regime. In 1992, Nelson Mandela visited Iran and thanked “the Iranian government and nation for their support in the black people’s struggle against apartheid.″
In contrast, the US and its Western allies have supported freedom for white Europeans globally while quietly enslaving or subjugating all others. Popular Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba was eliminated through a 1960 coup supported by Belgium and the US. Washington has historically stood by its European allies when they conducted ethnic cleansing and genocide against Africans. American collaboration with Britain is well known, particularly the British suppression of Kenya’s Mau Mau movement in the 1950s that sought self-determination.
The destructive meddling in affairs of the other countries by the US was formalized with the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947. In June 1948, the CIA was authorized to carry out covert operations in “support of US foreign policy.” Its first and most successful operation was jointly with MI6 in 1953 when it masterminded a coup against Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s first-ever democratically elected prime minister. In the years to come, the US used lessons learned from 1953 to overthrow governments in other countries. Vietnam and Chile are perhaps the two most spectacular examples.
A Tale of Neocolonization and Hypocrisy
After World War II, the Americans have always championed the 1941 Atlantic Charter, a joint US and British declaration, to portray themselves as great supporters of freedom. Its most important features included recognizing the right of people to choose their own form of government, removing trade restrictions, improving labor standards, expanding social programs, renouncing use of force, and reducing armament. The Atlantic Charter deeply influenced the UN Charter that followed after the war.
After the devastation of World War II, the UN was founded in 1945 to save the world from the “scourge of war,” to strengthen “human rights,” to promote “justice,” reinforce “international law” and promote social well-being. Yet the US and Britain have never really honored their commitment to the UN Charter just as they once ignored the Atlantic Charter after the war was over. Just as Britain and the US once promoted the interests of the East India Company and the United Fruit Company (UFC) through their foreign policy, they now support today’s big corporations.
The example of the US acting to support the UFC has become infamous in history. Less than 11 months after the 1953 Iran coup, the CIA-sponsored deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan government. Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was ousted in a June 1954 coup because, like Mosaddegh, he refused to play ball with a foreign corporation exploiting his country. This coup gave birth to a new word in international politics: “banana republic.”
The same year the US turned Guatemala into a banana republic, the Vietnamese crushed the French at Dien Bien Phu. This triggered American intervention under the guise of the Cold War. The stated aim was to keep out communism. The real goal was to ensure white domination of another non-white country. The US kept its forces in Vietnam for the next 20 years, brutally causing nearly 4 million casualties. American casualties were a relatively low 58,000 but many veterans who served in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are still suffering from physical and emotional trauma. The populations of these three countries are still dealing with the consequences of napalm bombing and the use of Agent Orange, which were both forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
Latin America Gets Special Attention
The US has dominated Latin America and treated the region as an informal colony. In 1964, the US and the British supported a military coup in Brazil that deposed the democratically elected Brazilian president Joao Goulart.
In Chile, the US followed the 1954 Guatemala template. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger mounted major clandestine operations against Chilean President Salvador Allende. Eventually, the US backed the 1973 coup and Allende was executed. This US conducted this coup for the Anaconda Copper Company which was a major donor of the Republican party.
No mercy shown even to Cuba, a small Caribbean country. In the 1960s, the CIA attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro numerous times through many means, including the use of organized crime syndicate. The US even tried an invasion at the Bay of Pigs but it turned out to be a disaster.
The failure of its anti-Castro machinations did not stop US operations in Latin America though. In the 1980s, the US supported the military junta in El Salvador with $6 billion to annihilate the insurgency and their supporters. That led to a civil war that lasted 12 years, causing many deaths and destruction. In the 1980s, the Irangate scandal hit the Reagan administration. Congressional inquiries revealed that the US had illegally sold weapons to Iran and used the profit to fund Contra rebels against Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
The Contras’ story becomes even more interesting. In 1981, the US backed Manuel Noriega who became the military dictator of Panama. Noriega was a conduit of money and weapons to the Contras. When Noriega was no longer useful, the US cut him off its payroll in 1988 and overthrew him in 1989.
The US Record Elsewhere
As for Asia, nobody should be surprised that the US supported Pakistan against India in the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Kissinger covered up the Pakistani mass rape, murders and other atrocities in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. The ruthless American diplomat justified support for Pakistan as essential for better relations with China. He also justified bombing Cambodia and Laos for pressuring North Vietnam. Remember Kissinger also caused Allende’s execution. Yet the Nobel Committee gave such a megalomaniac and international criminal the Peace Prize in 1973.
From 1945 to 1990, the CIA backed anti-communists to go on a rampage and kill communists in at least 22 countries. It began in Indonesia in 1965. The military killed a million Indonesians on the mere suspicion of being communists or left-wing. After the bloodbath, General Suharto emerged as the country’s leader and became president in 1967.
Today, we vividly remember 9/11. Yet few question the US role in creating those terrorists. The US wanted Afghanistan to be the Vietnam for the Soviets. In the 1980s, the US backed the most violent Muslims from around the world who flocked to fight a jihad in Afghanistan. They became known as the mujahideen and delivered a crushing defeat to the Soviets. President Ronald Reagan met with them in the Oval Office. Later, these jihadis formed al-Qaeda, al-Nusrat, ISIS, and other terrorist groups who have been causing deaths and destruction since.
In January 2020, the US killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani when he was on his way to meet the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. Soleimani had helped defeat ISIS and his execution triggered anger in the Middle East. Additionally, it also set a precedent for killing diplomats and has put in danger US diplomats around the world. From the days of the 2003 Iraq War, US actions have often been reckless, endangering peace consistently.
In the case of Iran, the US has acted most unwisely. For decades, it has been trying to initiate “regime change.” The US has imposed draconian sanctions on the country and caused untold suffering. Few Americans realize that over 98% of Iranians voted to create an Islamic republic in 1979.
The US supports Ukraine in the name of freedom and democracy. Yet the key reason for this support to do so is to weaken Russia. The US has imposed sanctions against Russia and supplied weapons to Ukraine to weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yet Putin’s popularity reached 81% at the end of last year while US President Joe Biden’s approval rating dropped to 44%.
The US funds that have been spent on regime change and military operations have caused economic pain, violence and suffering around the world. These funds could have been used to eliminate poverty and improve infrastructure at home.
Over the years, these policies have taken a toll on the reputation of the US. Ayatollah Khamenei once referred to the US as the Great Satan. Many others around the world may not agree with that description but share the ayatollah’s anti-American sentiment. To improve its global standing, the US must stop meddling in other countries or invading them. It could begin with mending relations with Iran and apologizing for the 1953 coup. Instead of acting as a domineering hegemon, the US must work with other nations to enhance freedom and peace for all humanity.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.
In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.
We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.
Support Fair Observer
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.
Will you support FO’s journalism?
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.