Monday, January 24, 2005

About Conspiracies

I have been dancing on the edge of this dreadful abyss for a while and so finally an invitation to jump which I simply can't resist. A Gentleman who recently visited our (often annoying LaLa) Land has this to say [edited version]:

I wanted to ask your opinion: you may not want to respond personally, but address this on your site. The majority of Iranians I spoke to whilst there insisted that we - not just the West, but Britain in particular - were complicit in the overthrow of the Shah, and the installation of the Islamic Republic. I have to say this surprised me. Though I was prepared to raise my hands in a mea culpa re Mossadegh, I found it hard to understand the logic behind this later assertion. What I grew to understand, falteringly, was that we were concerned that the Shah was growing too powerful, and we needed to install a weaker, less ambitious regime. I heard, endlessly, the joke about the Mullahs: that underneath their headgear - I apologize for not knowing its proper name - you will find 'Made in Britain' written there. I knew that Britain would not be loved for its treatment of Iran during the first half of the 20th century, but I had no idea we would still be seen as meddling so centrally in its revolution. Perhaps naively, I had rejoiced at the start of the revolution, feeling, like many around the world, and of course in Iran, that at last the Iranians would be throwing off their colonial shackles. To hear, as I did so often, that actually it was just more of the same struck me as depressing, and bizarre. I have to say that I still remain sceptical about this, and try as I might, have found nothing very compelling in literature about Iran tosuggest that we fomented the revolution. In my book I recount one or two conversations, where, having heard yet again of Albion's perfidy, (and, I have to add, our extraordinary cunning and cleverness) I found myself suggesting to my interlocutor that perhaps there was a collective victim mentality at work, and that maybe Iranians found it hard to accept responsibility for their revolution, for better or for worse. I was very aware how difficult it is for a -very flawed - representative of this country to lecture another country that has undoubtedly been a victim of our machinations during the last century about standing on its own two feet. But I still couldn't accept that we were in any way responsible for 79. I would dearly like to hear what you feel about this, since it seemed so central to so many Iranians way of thinking about their country, and its relations to the west. I was prompted to ask you this after I read your piece about visiting the pharmacy. I expect, to you, this is an exhausted, exhausting subject, but if you have any thoughts about it, I would value them.

Lala land and logic? Nah, but yes, terribly bizarre, and depressing. Something to think about while I put together a response (hopefully) half cogent.

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