Iran: from the revolution to today

I had been planning on writing a brief history of Iran to put the situation today in context, but someone more informed on the topic beat me to it. Since I know some people don't like reading really long articles I decided to paraphrase below. I still highly recommend reading the original article since it's full of great information. I still want to write a history on events before the 79 revolution.

WITH REPRESSION silencing most street protests for the moment as hardliners tighten their grip, is a democratic transformation--or revolutionary change--possible in Iran?

Lee Sustar begins at the revolution of 1979, when US-backed dictator, the Shah of Iran, was forced to flee the country, mainly due to general striked throughout Iran. Factory councils were initially set up but power centered around the clergy and middle-class and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The left was quickly divided and violently smashed and the 1980 invasion of Iran by Iraq backed by the United States allowed Khomeini and the clerics to consolidate power.

[In the post-revolutionary era] divisions broke out roughly into three camps: an Islamist left, which maintained some of the social rhetoric of the revolution; an Islamist right, based around the most conservative clergy; and a pragmatic right dominated by clerics who were close to, or had become part of, big business interests. Over the next two decades, these factions would clash over how Iran should engage with the world, economically, politically and culturally.

The Islamic left took power during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 with Mir Hussein Mousavi becoming prime minister. Mousavi justified social policies on religious grounds, saying "the way of Islam is to attend to social justice." After the war and Khomeini's death, factional struggles came into the open and cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani eliminated the office of prime minister and was elected president. Ali Khamanei became the supreme leader replacing Khomeini. Despite his attemps to engage the West, workers' standards of living declined and lead to riots and repression.

Rafsanjani completed his two alotted terms as president and aligned himself with the Islamic left, who after the fall of the Soviet Union shifted toward pro-market, neoliberal policies. Reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami won the 1997 presidential election, but the Islamic right, with their support from Khamanei controlled the majority of the government. Students in the pro-democracy movement had no support from the president and workers suffered under privatization and deregulation. In addition the clerics' Guardian Council, which approves candidates in office, barred many reformers from running in parliamentary elections.

To counter the mortal threat from Khatami's reform program the right built up networks of former Revolutionary Guards and the basij. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose political connections as well as those with the basij became the right's candidate for the 2005 presidential election, then being mayor if Tehran. With Khamanei's support, and suspected voter fraud, Ahmadinejad one the post. He put himself forward as a populist against Rafsanjani who was seen as the cause for Iran's economic turmoil. Once in office Ahmadinejad embraced privatization, but on a model based on Russia and Eastern Europe, where entrepreneurs are able to create huge private monopolies from former state assets. These assets would go to allies of Ahmadinejad threatning Rafsanjani and the existing capitalist class in Iran.

Rafsanjani supported his old rival Mousavi to counter Ahmadinejad and Khamanei. At the same time the economic and social liberal position of Mousavi gave him backing of young people and the working class. The election took place, Ahmadinajad won and we are where we are today.

For those in the Bay Area, there is a huge rally planned for Saturday July 25th in front of San Francisco city hall. I'll post more as I get information. For now check the Bay Area for Iran group on Facebook.

who makes policy in this country?

I'm on the mailing list for the Organic Consumers Association and usually there's some really interesting stuff in their newsletter. This week they have a list of the top 100 firms that spend the most money lobbying in this country. The amounts are for the first quarter of 2009. Here are the summations by industry:

$42 Million: Health Care, Health Insurance, & Pharma
$31 Million: Oil
$20 Million: War
$17 Million: Telecoms
$15 Million: Financial
$10 Million: Automotive
$7 Million: Life Insurance
$6 Million: Biotech

And the top ten companies:

1. Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A.: $9,996,000
2. Exxon Mobil: $9,320,000
3. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $6,910,000
4. Chevron U.S.A. Inc: $6,800,000
5. Lockheed Martin Corporation: $6,380,000
6. Pfizer, Inc: $6,140,000
7. Conoco Phillips: $5,980,935
8. National Association of Realtors: $5,727,000
9. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform: $5,480,000
10. AT&T Services, Inc: $5,134,873

Do you still think our government has your best interest? I'm sure if this were to be further divided by Republicans and Democrats receiving these funds it'd be a near even split. See the full list here. Also note that many of these corporations contract out to lobbying firms so the am mounts are greater than this.

Another interesting article from OCA is about "natural" products and how many times it's a marketing ploy and actually undermines the organic foods industry. Retailers like Whole Foods Market and wholesalers like United Natural Foods Inc. push these products with rather than certified organic products. On the topic of Whole Foods, here's an in depth article about their poor labor standards and union busting.

military coup in Honduras and how the US will act

Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a military coup on June 28, 2009. President Obama has joined many leaders throughout the country condemning the ousting, although Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held off formally calling the event a coup which would cut off millions in aid to Honduras. The US administration has not called for Zelaya to be reinstated in office. Zelaya is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and has made a series of moves in opposition of US foreign policy, mainly highly criticizing the war on drugs. The president has said the US is responsible for drug violence in Central America and has called for legalization. In December he wrote Obama a letter outlining these points. He also raised minimum wage by 60 percent in a country where many foreign companies operate factories.

Generals Romero Vasquez and Luis Suazo who led the coup also received training by the United States at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formally known as the School of the Americas. WHINSEC has trained many Latin American soldiers and policemen including generals, dictators, and armies for drug cartels, some of which have been previously involved in CIA sponsored coups.

Democracy Now's Juan Gonzalez related these events to Haiti under the Clinton administration.

[T]his reminds me very much of what happened years ago in Haiti, where you had basically a military coup against a legally elected president, Aristide, and where the—a Democratic administration, President Clinton, condemned the coup leaders, as has President Obama, at least in this in the early days here, but where the US military was playing a different role—in essence, had its own ties with the established coup leaders.

It will be interesting to not only watch what the Obama administration does during this event, but also what goes on behind the scenes.