|Above, rally of hundreds of thousands in Tehran February 11, anniversary of the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, backed by Washington. At rallies in many cities across Iran, workers, youth and others mobilized to denounce U.S. government threats against their country.
Millions in Iran denounce
threats by U.S. imperialism
U.S. officials declare aim of toppling Iraq government
BY CARMEN JAMES
PITTSBURGH--Millions of people demonstrated in cities throughout Iran on February 11 to condemn the U.S. government's threats against their country and show their determination to defend the gains of their revolution carried out 23 years ago.
The February 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew Shah Reza Pahlevi, head of a royal family kept in power for decades through torture, murder, and intimidation by London and Washington. The shah was the firmest U.S. ally in the Mideast outside of the state of Israel.
By all accounts, this year's commemoration of the revolution's anniversary was the largest in many years, fueled by U.S. president George Bush's January 29 State of the Union speech, where he threatened Iran, Iraq, and north Korea as "an axis of evil."
Washington stepped up its threats against Iraq February 12 with a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the Senate Budget Committee. "With respect to Iran and with respect to north Korea, there is no plan to start a war with these countries," he said. "With respect to Iraq, it has long been, for several years now, a policy of the United States government that regime change would be in the best interests of the region, the best interests of the Iraqi people. And we are looking at a variety of options to bring that about."
The New York Times reported the following day that "senior officials said there was a consensus within the administration that he must be overthrown and that plans to do so are being drawn up. But there is no agreement as to how precisely that should be done or how long the United States should be prepared to wait for action. Still, there are indications that the planning is becoming increasingly serious."
In a report from Tehran, Iran's capital, the Times said the massive march there February 11 "harkened back to the early days of the Islamic revolution, with the American flag burned here for the first time in recent memory."
During the revolution, workers organized a general strike that paralyzed the economy until the shah fled. Poor peasants seized land. The U.S.-backed dictatorship finally fell when a popular insurrection--joined by rank-and-file soldiers who distributed arms to the people--engulfed Tehran. A year later, students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and published volumes of documents revealing a vast U.S. spy network aimed at overturning the Islamic Republic that replaced the shah.
The current Iranian government, headed by President Mohammed Khatami, favored the U.S. war that deposed the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and has sought closer relations with Washington since taking office. While welcoming Tehran's stance on the Afghanistan war, the U.S. government has charged Iranian officials with promoting terrorism, arming Palestinians, and undermining the new Afghan regime.
Khatami addressed the mass rally February 11 in Tehran. "Amid the dirge-like chants of 'Death to America!'" reported the Times, "President Khatami tried to display Iran's milder face, stressing his government's interest in detente."
The crowd responded most, however, when Khatami condemned the U.S. government. "The American people should ask today how much of the awful and terrifying incidents of Sept. 11 were due to terrorist acts, and how much of it was due to the foreign policy adopted by American officials," said Khatami. "America, or at least some of its officials, see themselves as masters of the world. Since they have power, they want to force the world to obey them and exert pressure on countries that disobey. Your revolution threatened America's illegitimate interests in the region, so it is obvious that you are the target of its animosity."
One Iranian demonstrator told the Times, "As long as our revolution is against America, we support it. The day there is peace between this country and America, the revolution is over."
The rally drew Iranians with many different political perspectives, all of them outraged by Bush's remarks. London's Financial Times noted that "many turned out who would not normally lend their presence to such pro-regime occasions." Reports indicate there were massive turnouts for similar rallies in cities across the country.
A few Iranians pointedly went elsewhere for the day. The New York Times commented that in "affluent north Tehran, where one oc--ca-sion-ally hears support for the idea that Bush should carry through with his threat to bomb, cars laden with skis headed out of town toward the slopes in the balmy spring-like weather."
Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, stated February 11 that "we are against an attack on Iran for many reasons. If anyone imagines otherwise, he should listen to us clearly. We are not of the kind that plays with words or compromises. Our stance is firm." In 1980, Hussein launched a war against Iran that was quietly backed by Washington, which hoped the Iranian revolution would be destroyed. The Iraqi forces were unable to overcome Iranian regular troops and the ten of thousands of Iranian combatants who volunteered. The war ended in 1988.
Iranian president Khatami stated in late January of this year that his country opposes "foreigners" interfering in Iraq, a clear reference to the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, in Washington, while there is bipartisan backing for the war course of U.S. imperialism, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle cautioned Bush over the "axis of evil" speech. "I think we've got to be very careful with rhetoric of that kind," said Daschle. "We've already seen the moderates in Iran scramble to draw distance between us and them, and I think we have to be very careful with how we approach all three countries."
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