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15 January 2012

Pattern: October Surprise?

This morning Joe My God ran a clip from Reuters on Russia warning the United States against attacking Iran.  At the same time, all of the Republican contenders, with the notable exception of Ron Paul, are saber-rattling against Iran.  This set me thinking about October 1980, but the story starts much earlier.

In 1921, Reza Shah Pahlavi overthrew the Persian government, a Turkish family having held the seat for a couple of centuries.  He sought to modernize Iran without Westernizing the country.  As part of the battles of World War II, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran and sent him into exile.

In 1941, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah, the son of the exiled ruler, was placed on the throne.  A decade later there was a coup and the last Shah fled the country.  Two years later the United States and Britain overthrew a constitutional government to force the last Shah back onto the throne.  The last Shah fled Iran again in 1979 as the modern theocracy took over.

It is important to go back to the Pahlavi dynasty to understand why Iranians today hold animosity toward the United States.  While these are not recent events to many of us, they are not forgotten in the ancient land of Persia.

In November 1979, fifty-two Americans were taken hostage at the United States embassy in Tehran.  They would be held for 444 days.  This would be part of why President Jimmy Carter failed to win a second term.  Mr. Carter did endeavor to free the hostages, both by negotiations and by military extraction.  All efforts failed.  To make matters worse for the President, media coverage was greater and more persistent than it had ever been previously, including the introduction of Nightline to cover the hostage drama.

On 20 January 1981, minutes after Ronald Wilson Reagan was sworn into office as the fortieth President of the United States, the hostages were freed.  The timing inspired conspiracy theories.  I was serving in the U.S. Navy at the time and there were many rumors, scuttlebutt it was called, floating around about both Mr. Carter and Mr. Reagan.  The truth would not come out until several years later.

In 1988 fourteen of the released hostages filed suit against the U.S. government for collusion with the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to delay the release until after Mr. Reagan was sworn into office.
To support the lawsuit's charges, Davis cited recently declassified top- secret documents and court transcripts. He is relying mostly on statements by two self-described former CIA agents: Richard Brenneke and Heinrich Rupp.
The two claim to have played roles in three meetings between Reagan campaign officials and Iranian officials in Paris on Oct. 19-20, 1980.
Brenneke, an Oregon businessman and former arms dealer, told a federal judge in Denver last month that he attended one of the meetings along with William Casey, then-chairman of the Reagan campaign and later the director of the CIA, and Donald Gregg, now George Bush's national security adviser. He said he was not at an Oct. 19 meeting that he was told included Bush.
The group discussed trading weapons for a delay in releasing the American hostages until after the election, Brenneke said.
''The logistics of transferring $40 million for the purchase of weapons was worked out,'' Brenneke said in his testimony. ''That was the figure that William Casey and Mr. Gregg discussed at the meeting as being available for the purchase of weapons.''
More information came out in the book October Surprise in 1991.

Now let's look at 2012.  There have been tensions between Iraq and Iran for a long time.  Our withdrawal from Iraq has left an opening for Republicans to question whether this helps Iran (a fair question).  The second nuclear scientist assassinated in Iran in a short period leaves Iran blaming Israel and the United States (perhaps correctly, I don't know).  Russia is on Iran's side so that it can ensure its own delivery of oil from the Persian fields.  And the Republican contenders for President are rattling their sabers.

I don't like conspiracy theories.  I would hope that no American who seeks the presidency would be dealing with a hostile foreign government to achieve a domestic administration's defeat.  But that apparently did happen just thirty-two years ago.  Could history repeat itself?  What sort of surprise might October 2012 hold?  I offer no predictions, just concern.


  1. It's only paranoia if no one is out to get you...

    Good reminder about something the Reagan-as-popular revisionists would rather forget. But now you got me all depressed on a Monday morning which is supposed to be a day off (for people who have real benefits anyway). Blegh. Let's hope for history to stay history. (Not just for the sake of the current president vs his opponent).

    BTW hi and nice blog you got here. Thought I would come and return a favor. :D

    1. Hi Lynne, and welcome. Sorry to depress you. My purpose with this post was to get these thoughts into perspective. I try to balance posts between "praise" and "repudiation", not to dwell on either the negative or the positive. Sometimes it comes out rough. In this case, I would also like more people to be thinking about the history and, ideally, prevent a repetition.

      Mr. Huntsman and Dr. Paul are the two Republican contenders who I think would be above chicanery. I understand that Mr. Huntsman is dropping out of contention today. Dr. Paul is a libertarian except when it comes to social issues, where he is far too conservative for my comfort, while advocating too much freedom for the comfort of most Republicans. Put bluntly, I don't trust any of the rest of them.

      Anyway, thanks for the compliments (always appreciated). Take care.

    2. Oh, LOL, I was just being my usual snarky self. ^_^ I have a bad habit of it.

      Paul also scares me on the foreign policy side. I am all for *not* having so many military adventures overseas and not sticking our violent nose where it doesn't belong. But Paul's view on total isolationism is really dangerous. It's like he drove by my pretty left-leaning views on foreign policy and then ZOOOOOOMED right on past and went to Never Never Land!

      Let's not talk about the relatives I have that are Paulites...


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