East Of Eden-Iran:
Images And Reflections
By Gaither Stewart
13 November, 2007
power in the Middle East has never recovered from the blow of the Iranian
Revolution. The miscalculations and blindness to reality concerning
Iran of 25 years ago have led the USA down erroneous paths ever since.
While the drums of war roll
and the US President speaks of war against Iran, questions and more
questions emerge from the disastrous past of US-Iran relations. After
the great lie about Iraq, one must wonder if Iran’s nuclear ambitions
are the problem. The obvious answer is: not at all. Oil is the issue.
Many Europeans suspect Bush’s
threats of war against Iran are electoral propaganda. They reason that
America cannot sustain another military front. Bush’s rhetoric
is considered bluff, dangerous bluff however because it is combined
with America’s engrained ignorance about Iran.
In August 1978, the CIA predicted
that the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran could last another
ten years. Despite revolts exploding all over ancient Persia, Western
businessmen believed this too and swarmed over the country in search
of lucrative contracts.
As an interpreter for a group
of Italian companies, I was in the captivating country of Iran during
1977-78. As foreigners who have lived there testify, Iran is a special
country that gets in your blood. It’s the dry summer heat, the
cold winters and those purple mountains.
While the CIA was making
its rosy Iran situation reports, the Iran created by the American puppet,
Shah Pahlavi, was disintegrating. While curfews kept the streets clear
after 8 p.m. the resistance controlled the city after midnight. In an
early act of repression the Shah’s police mowed down students
in the holy city of Qom. Every day millions of marchers clamored for
the heads of the Pahlavis. Quickly the circles tightened around the
Shah and US interests in Iran. Though no one knew for certain what was
happening, the whole city began to stink of stale gas and terror and
greater battles to come.
Yet, in the generalized chaos
they continued working on new streets, emblematic of the millenary continuity
of Persia-Iran. In September a general strike paralyzed the nation.
Each day young cab drivers at my old hotel boasted of how they would
hang the Shah and cut off the heads of the SAVAK beasts.
When would the Shah make
his move, foreign businessmen wondered? And what were their American
protectors doing? Yet, you could smell it, the revolution. I would tell
the businessmen what I thought was happening but none of them felt it.
They didn’t want to know the reality. Their investments in the
Shah’s Iran were too great.
But the revolution was there.
Yet, at night in the hotel
bar, time stopped. Like all the hotel bars in all the African capitals
of all the former European colonies it was a sad place. A place for
Meanwhile, Washington was
paralyzed. The Shah’s glass castle was leaking on all sides. While
the SAVAK continued to torture subversives and martial law tightened,
Ayatollah Khomeini then in Paris exile prepared his return, protest
mushroomed in Tehran and in front of my eyes soldiers threw away their
guns and joined the people. Yet, Westerners were still blind, waiting
for the US to move.
On the eve of the revolution,
I attended a strange meeting in a downtown office building organized
by Bechtel Corporation to celebrate the opening of its office in Tehran
with over 100 employees. Close to political power in the USA, the Bechtel
construction company was dedicated “to making money” while
also helping to overthrow foreign governments unfriendly to US interests.
Yet, in Iran, Bechtel and the US government failed and its men vanished
from Iran. Today, I note, Iran is not even listed among the many countries
where Bechtel has worked to further American interests and to make money.
In Iran, chaos reigned. It
Washington had had blind
confidence in the Shah’s American-armed military forces that had
made Iran the gendarme of the region. The entire West was as incredulous
as were the businessmen who counted on the US Marines to put things
The rest of the story is
well known. In January of 1979 the Shah fled to Egypt. Ayatollah Khomeini
returned from exile to become the leader of the Islamic Republic of
Iran. In February Iranian students occupied the US Embassy in Tehran
and held its personnel as hostages. This was Iran’s revenge for
the US-organized coup that overthrew Premier Moussadeq in 1953 for his
nationalization of Iran’s oil.
New Iran didn’t know
what to do with the hostages. It didn’t know how to negotiate.
The fundamentalists were busy making the Islamic republic and Khomeini
learning to control power. The young revolutionaries, the mujahadeen
and the Socialists and the Communists, didn’t care about diplomatic
and international rules and niceties. This was revolution.
Iranians then exulted again
at the fiasco of the US military attempt to rescue the hostages. Oh,
how they seethed on the banks of the Potomac. All their assessments
were wrong, all attempts to salvage something from the disaster wrong.
So, in 1980 American-armed Iraq attacked Iran still in chaos, while
Washington upped its own confusion by secretly selling more arms to
Iran. Yep, to revolutionary Iran! In order to pay for the dirty war
against the new leftwing Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contras
scandal. La drole de guerre! America armed both sides.
Iraq could never defeat Iran
then, no more than American armies today or its Blackwater mercenaries
could defeat ancient Iran whose history reaches back to the beginnings
of time. Iran is not tribal Afghanistan or artificially created Iraq.
From the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, from villages of the Elbruz
Mountains to the magic fountains of Isfahan, Iran is solidity. Iran
is durability, part of our cultural heritage. This is territory of ancient
peoples, some believe the location of the Garden of Eden and Cain’s
land of Nod, somewhere East of Eden.
Gaither Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. He
has lived his adult life abroad, in Germany and Italy, alternated with
residences in The Netherlands, France, Mexico, Argentina and Russia.
After a career in journalism as Italian correspondent for the Rotterdam
newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, and contributor to media in various European
countries. His books of fiction include, "Icy Current Compulsive
Course, To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin", published
by Wind River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published
He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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