Fear of Islam must not drive US foreign policy

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Gina Haspel, the CIA officer known for overseeing torture and destroying videotape evidence of abuse in a black site in Thailand, faced the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings to lead the CIA. This comes just one day after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal.

Though the deal was carefully crafted during the Obama administration with global allies, and the U.S. withdrawal now criticized, the U.S. will instead institute nuclear sanctions independently on Iran. The evidence shows Iran has been in compliance with the deal.

{mosads}This declaration comes two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Muslim ban 3.0, which indefinitely bans Iranian nationals from entering the United States, as well as several other Muslim countries, is constitutional.


This also comes a fortnight after the Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of State. He is known for his ties to anti-Islam groups, hawkish policies and hostility toward the former Iran nuclear deal. 

Earlier this spring, John Bolton was appointed head of the National Security Administration. In July of last year, Bolton proclaimed from the podium: “The declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran … The only solution is to change the regime itself.” 

None of this is surprising for a president who stated unabashedly, “I think Islam hates us.” 

Yet, what many Americans either don’t know or remember is that the United States has been in the regime change business with Iran since 1953, when Iran had a progressive, democratically elected leader heading the country, Mohammad Mossadegh.

Named Time‘s Man of the Year for 1951, Mossadegh was a progressive who reflected many of the values the West professes. His fatal error was nationalizing Iran’s oil industry, taking it back from the British who enjoyed exploiting the natural resources of Iran, much like they had exploited the resources of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

As journalist Stephen Kinzer noted in his book, “All the Shah’s Men”: “When Winston Churchill helped to seize Iran’s oil industry in the 1920s, he called it ‘a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams.’”

While that prize wasn’t worth fighting a battle for, it was worth staging a coup d’état, the first of many for the CIA.

In 1953, the British Secret Intelligence Service and the CIA, after months of planning, executed Operation Ajax — a propaganda campaign in Iranian media and staged protests by anti-government rebels.

This ultimately coalesced into installing the shah, whose brutal and oppressive dictatorship sparked the Islamic Revolution in 1979.The CIA has admitted its role in the forced regime change. 

Iran is not the only country the United States has either installed or supported a brutal dictatorship to solidify its own interest. One doesn’t need to look much further than to Iran’s neighbor. 

Iraq was once led by Army Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim who led a revolt against the British-backed monarch, and to the ire of Western imperialists, nationalized the country’s oil supply, began instituting widespread economic and political reforms and created a structure of power-sharing to account for the religious and ethnic diversity of the nation.

In 1969, Qasim was overthrown and executed in what investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill termed a “bizarre show trial.” The CIA used the Ba’ath Party to facilitate regime change on the ground. One of the most notorious henchmen to emerge from the Ba’ath party was none other than Saddam Hussein.

When Saddam Hussein decided to invade and claim sovereignty over oil-rich Kuwait, the United States began bombing the very government it had installed decades earlier. 

The U.S. continues to support dictators in the Middle East to buoy its interests in the region. Egypt receives an average of $1.6 billion annually, though Human Rights Watch has named Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a chronic human-rights abuser. 

Similarly, the U.S. support for Mohammad Bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, whose greatest accomplishment is allowing women to drive, is also alarming.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is similarly accused of vast human rights violations by Human Rights Watch, including intentionally targeting civilians in air strikes, using internationally banned cluster munitions and targeting health facilities.

The common thread is that the United States is willing to engage in regime change or support of dictators with a horrendous human rights record if it means the U.S. will continue to maintain proxy hegemony in the oil rich Middle East. 

The assumption is that Islamophobia is a tool of empire building.

In his 2018 book, “American Islamophobia,”Khaled Beydoun defines Islamophobia as the belief that “Islam is inherently violent, alien, and unassimilable, a presumption driven by the belief that expressions of Muslim identity correlate with a propensity of terrorism.”

Deepa Kumar, associate professor at Rutgers University, states in her 2012 book, “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire”: [T]he history of ‘Islam and the West,’ as it is commonly termed, is a story not of religious conflict but rather of conflict born of political rivalries and competing imperial agendas … Religion became the screen behind which social and economic conflicts were played out.”

Prejudice in the U.S. toward Islam as a particularly violent, barbaric cult is simply unsubstantiated statistically. World War I claimed 18 million lives. World War II claimed 72 million. No wars in the Muslim-majority world have claimed as many casualties.

Yet, leading up to the Iraq War, the government continuously promoted demonstrably false evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and it connected the secular Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and the trauma of 9/11, as though the threat of violent extremism could come from anywhere Muslims resided.

Fifteen years later, Iraqi nationals continue to pay the price of the U.S. invasion, and many credit the creation of ISIS to the United States destabilization in the region.

If Iraq was a test case on regime change, the answer clearly must be that we cannot allow this to happen in Iran. The path to peace is a path of diplomacy and recognizing a nation’s right to self-govern. The last thing the United States should do is seek out another endless war based on false premises. 

Huma Yasin is an attorney, author of the forthcoming book, “Conspiracy: The True Story of the Fort Dix Five,” and co-founder of Facing Abuse in Community Environments. She is a public voices fellow through The OpEd Project.

Tags Abd al-Karim Qasim Donald Trump Iraq Iraq War Iraq–United States relations Islamophobia Mike Pompeo Military Military history by country Politics of Iraq proxy wars Saddam Hussein

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