It’s already long forgotten here, but the theocratic regime in Iran was really our baby. After all, in 1953, the CIA and British intelligence engineered a coup to replace a democratic government in Iran with the autocratic Shah and so gave Iranians just what they didn’t want (including his creepy secret police, the Savak). In those days, however, blowback from such American acts didn’t arrive with the speed of the Internet. It took a quarter of a century for our man in Iran to go down and the theocrats to rise. They were, of course, born of us (as in the U.S.), but no one talks about that anymore.
Then Washington switched partners. The administration of Ronald Reagan found someone else in the region we could really admire, another strongman by the name of — does this ring a bell? — Saddam Hussein. He ruled Iraq, not Iran, and like the Saudis of today (and the Israelis of just about any time), he wanted to take out the Iranian theocrats. (How familiar does that sound now that Donald Trump has done his best to smash the Iran nuclear deal?) In 1980, Saddam launched a war of aggression against that country. As the U.S. military now helps the Saudis with targeting intelligence and weaponry in their brutal war in Yemen, so it then helped Saddam, targeting Iranian military contingents, even knowing that Saddam’s troops were likely to use chemical weapons against them. Five hundred thousand or so Iranians died in that invasion and the eight-year disaster of a war that followed. Then, in another curious reversal, Saddam suddenly became “Hitler,” the ultimate evil one. In 1990, the U.S. military (and its allies) drove his troops out of Kuwait, and in 2003 the administration of George W. Bush took him out completely. And just in case you’ve forgotten that “mission accomplished” moment, let me remind you that, like so much else the U.S. has done in the region in these years, it didn’t exactly work out splendiferously.
Now, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out, we seem to be on a path to a Third Gulf War. Once again, Iran is the enemy. Once again, as in 2003, a president is surrounded by bellicose advisers intent on just such a war and looking for the right excuse to launch it. And if this doesn’t seem eerily repetitive to you, well, what can I say — except that this little history gives grim new meaning to the adage, often credited to philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”