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Iranian Chessboard

Iran wrote a constitution in 1906 but interference by Russia and Britain scuttled it and the country was split into a northern Russian and southern British zone of influence. The weak Qajar dynasty sold out the nation's economic interest to the British by granting tobacco, oil and railway monopolies to the British. The Qajar dynasty was overthrown by Reza Shah, a soldier who usurped the throne. He was deposed by the British for his sympathies to the Germans in WW1 and exiled to South Africa, while his son was placed on the throne. In 1953, the democratically elected Mossadeq government which made the monarchy constitutional and nationalized Iranian oil, was overthrown in a coup by the American CIA and British intelligence and the puppet Shah was installed as an absolute monarch. He was allowed unlimited modern arms purchases from his newly increase oil revenues following rise of oil prices after the Arab oil embargo that followed the Israeli victory in the 1967 war. Kissinger even convinced the president to sell him nuclear technology. His secret service 'Savak' was trained in torture tactics by the CIA and his repressive regime wasted resources due to haphazard planning, impoverished and terrorized the masses and enriched his corrupt cronies. After his fall and takeover by Khomeini, many of the rich Iranians migrated to California and are still active in supporting the shahlet (son of the shah) and destabilizing the clerical regime.

Khomeini, despite his devout religiosity was a shrewd manipulator and hoodwinked the Iranian masses by initially co-operating with the remnants of the communist Tudeh party, the democratically elected prime minister and president and eventually displacing and killing his opponents to ram through a theocracy in which the unelected religious leader reigned supreme and the candidacy of anyone running for elections had to be approved by a council of clerics. He condoned the hostage taking of US diplomats to distract the public and pass his theocratic agenda. The institutions of the state were replaced by cleric controlled foundations called 'Buniyads', but have become boondoggles. The temperamentally mercurial and naive Iranian population, whose only recourse to opposition were the mosques which no tyrant can eliminate in a predominantly Islamic nation, were duped by Khomeini's propaganda just as they had been fooled before by the CIA. A referendum imposed the theocracy by stealth under the fear and paranoia of a repeat of US interference and coup, just as Bush engineered his re-election and the war on Iraq in America and is planning a war on Iran by the same strategy. Interested readers should read Scott Ritter's book 'Target Iran', Seymour Hersh's articles in the New Yorker and articles on Iran at think tank web-sites of the New America Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, CSIS etc.

America uses institutions like USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA and NGOs to finance elections and overthrow foreign governments in Central and South America and in the color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Kirghizstan. The US Congress has appropriated funds for regime change or government overthrow in Iraq and Iran. The US provided economic and military assistance to Saddam's invasion of Iran.

India invented the game of chess

The apocryphal story goes that the pleased monarch granted the inventor a boon. The inventor asked that a grain of rice be placed on the first square, two on the second, four on the third and so on and the sum total of all the rice grains on all the sixty-four squares of the board be gifted to him. The ignorant king expressed surprise at such a meager demand until a wise minister made him aware of the impossibility of fulfilling the wish even by the entire rice stock of the state. The original name of chess was 'Chaturangi', and there were four armies (chatur or four and angi or bodies of arms in battle). The name changed to 'Shatranj' in ancient Persian and then to chess. Even today the end of the game in English is called checkmate. The word derives from the Persian Shah Mat or the king is dead. The word mat has a common origin with Mrut in Sanskrit and mortis in Latin from which come mortal in English. The game changed to a battle to death of two armies but in the present geopolitical confrontation with Iran is reverting to an even greater multi-polarity than its original four.


America uses institutions like USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA and NGOs to finance elections and overthrow foreign governments in Central and South America and in the color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Kirghizstan. The US Congress has appropriated funds for regime change or government overthrow in Iraq and Iran. The US provided economic and military assistance to Saddam's invasion of Iran. Iran feels insecure as a result of US sanctions and its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, its immediate western and eastern neighbors. Pakistan, its southern neighbor is a base for the US, as are Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the countries across the Persian Gulf. Iran co-operated with America during the invasion of Afghanistan only to be named as a member of the Axis of Evil. An offer to negotiate sent via the Swiss was spurned by America and the messenger Swiss were publicly berated. Iran has chosen to pursue the nuclear option clandestinely to deter military aggression and arm itself by Russian, Ukrainian, North Korean and Chinese arms and to develop an indigenous arms producing expertise. It makes its own planes, tanks and submarines under a license, a lesson India needs to learn. China, India and recently North Korea have opted for overt nuclear weapons in response to aggressive US policies from Korea in the fifties, Vietnam in the sixties, Iraq in 1991 and Serbia in the late nineties.

The US military blunder of invading Iraq led to the empowering of the Iraqi Shiite majority whose leaders spent years in exile in Iran and were supported by Iran. The dethroned ruling Iraqi Sunnis were sidelined. They live in the western Iraq desert with no oil. They formed the initial insurgency with help from Al Qaeda and its Saudi and Gulf financiers, even more enriched by the rising oil prices. Zarqawi with his rabid Shiite hatred, started terror killing of the Shiites deemed collaborators with the US occupation. Now the Shiite militias are having their revenge on the Sunnis. Sistani, a cleric of Iranian origin residing in Najaf, advised caution to the Shiites and forced elections against the wishes of the US occupiers who wanted to appoint colluding leaders on the CIA payroll (Alawi or Chalebi) or manipulate caucuses. The Sunnis boycotted the elections further empowering the Shias and the Kurds. 

The chaturangi or four major players on this chessboard are the neighboring countries most of which are predominantly Sunni, the western powers of America and EU, Russia and China. The Kurds want to secede from Iraq and are held back from doing so because the Turks are willing to intercede militarily to prevent it. Eastern Turkey has a majority Kurdish population and would be an irresistible magnet for the Turkish Kurds and lead to the breakup of Turkey. Bahrain has a Shia majority as does southern Lebanon and the eastern oil rich region of Saudi Arabia. Jordan, Egypt and the Saudi monarchy are fearful of the Shia resurgence and would like a stable Iraq devoid of Iranian influence. If the US withdraws or fails in Iraq, the Saudis threaten to support the Sunnis in a civil war. Jordan and Syria are likely to do the same. Turkey is more concerned about the Kurds and will intervene if they declare independence. It is not too happy about the Shias since it is Sunni. Sectarian warfare and instability may be precipitated in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia as well. They don't want the US to leave. Al Qaeda will continue fighting the Americans.

The US wants the oil and bases but the US public wants withdrawal. The Democrats want to withdraw but don't want to lose. Their hopes are even more futile than the hawkish Republicans who want to win. Bush is likely to gamble on a war with Iran. Cheney's office has the war plans from the Pentagon. The administration has hit the papers and television with unsubstantiated accusations that Iran is responsible for the IEDs. There is no proof offered, just as in the lies about Iraq WMDs. Iran is probably arming the Shiite militias. Bush has ordered raids on Iranian diplomats and is holding them to the dismay of the Iraqi regime. A second aircraft carrier has been sent to the Gulf and Bush has sent Patriot missile batteries to the Gulf sheikhdoms. Only a gullible idiot would believe that it has anything to do with fighting the insurgency. This excuse is similar to Bush supplying F-16s and Blackhawk helicopters, anti-tank and Harpoon missiles to Pakistan to fight Al Qaeda. They will be used against India. The EU and particularly Germany has a large trade with Iran and does not wish to jeopardize it. They don't want a nuclear Iran so they have reluctantly joined hands with the US for sanctions.

Russia does not want a nuclear Iran but it doesn't want to stay neutral. Clinton and Bush have enlarged NATO right up to its doorstep and the US is wooing Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Tajikistan.
So Russia announced that it has supplied Iran with a new sophisticated air defense and is willing to sell the advanced S-300 air and ballistic missile defense. It is completing the Bushehr civilian nuclear plant and wants to sell more plants to Iran. This is why the Russian foreign minister loudly proclaimed that it was not violating any sanctions and watered down the ones proposed by America. Russia doesn't want to lose a billion plus dollars a year arms market of Iran and wants to build up a US counterbalancing group of its own and in the SCO comprising the Eurasian landmass.

The Chinese want reliable access to oil and gas from Iran and have signed direct state to state long term deals with Iran despite US objections, unlike Japan and India which backed out. China has been selling ships and missiles to Iran and is involved in a lot of construction projects (built the Tehran subway) and joint ventures in Iran. It also wants Iran to be part of the SCO (Shanghai Co-operative Organization). China also doesn't want a nuclear Iran, but wants to counter US hegemony and a unipolar world. It tested its first anti-satellite weapon successfully yesterday causing considerable worry in America.

Iran, in the meantime is networking for support with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and their populist leftist newly elected anti-American presidents. It is popular in the Sunni Arab streets of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and even non-Arab Indonesia, because of its support for Hizbollah which stood up against Israel as no Arab state ever has. It is also supporting Hamas of the Palestinians. Incidentally the US and Israel are financing the Palestinian Fatah faction to fight Hamas. Iran has used the windfall from high oil prices to arm itself and subsidize its population. It is to reduce its oil income that Saudi Arabia at the behest of America opened its oil spigot which has led to the oil price falling to fifty dollars from seventy-five. Iran is not ethnically homogenous. It has nearly fifty percent of its population consisting of Azeris and Kurds in the north and northwest and Arabs and Baluchis in the southeast and south. 

America wants to prevent it from going nuclear and becoming a regional power. It would like to demolish the theocracy and replace it by a compliant regime, fully democratic or otherwise. Another objective is to Balkanize and fragment it. This is why a collaborating Iranian editor called Azeris cockroaches even though the present Iranian supreme leader Khameni is of Azeri origin. There were bomb blasts and unrest in Arab Khuzistan province of Iran which it claimed were fomented by the western powers. Iran wants to drive the US out of the Middle East and create a Shiite power block extending to southern Iraq and southern Lebanon (SCIRI and DAWA in Iraq and Shia Hizbollah and Amal in Lebanon) and even Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia. Many western policy mavens have stated that Iran schizoidly alternates between a pan-Islamic ideologue state and a pragmatic nation state as manifested by the tenures of Khomeini, Rasfanjani, Khatami and Ahmedinejad.A constant is the critical animosity to Israel, whose solitary nuclear status in the Middle East it is trying to breach. Israel is threatening to bomb its nuclear sites and goading America to do so. It has a receptive and sympathetic Neo-con power base in the US with the ear of the president and vice president. The chess match to death has already begun and the world waits with baited breath and trepidation to see if the outcome will be bushmate or mullahmate. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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